PPI Web Desk
New York: Bangladesh is home to some 880,000 Rohingya refugees. During registration, the refugees were asked to consent to their data being shared with the Government of Myanmar by the Government of Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) of collecting and sharing data improperly, alleging the agency did not conduct a full data impact assessment as its policies require.
Human Rights Watch director, Lama Fakih said, “The UN refugee agency’s data collection practices with Rohingya in Bangladesh were contrary to the agency’s own policies and exposed refugees to further risk.” Data can only be shared with partners, when its origin is obtained free and with the consent of the refugee, after he was properly informed.
Data sharing helps identify those refugees with specific needs or vulnerabilities, to refer them to the appropriate services and support. It’s primary aim is to provide protection, documentation, and assistance to refugees. It also helps keep families together or reunite them if they have been separated.
To counter these allegations, the UNHCR stated on Wednesday that clear policies are in place to ensure the safeguarding of the data collected when refugees are registered.
Specific measures were taken to mitigate potential risks during the data collection of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, measures to protect personal data against all unauthorized forms of processing.
The UNHCR assured that each refugee family was informed of the purpose of the joint registration. Throughout the process the UNHCR ensured that the refugees fully understood the purpose of the exercise, and they assisted them to make an informed decision. Refugees were expressly asked for their consent to have their data shared with the Government of Myanmar by the Government of Bangladesh. Each family’s consent was confirmed at least twice before signatures were taken.
Refugee families who did not consent to share their data were still registered and able to access the same services and support.
These exercise was used to establish Rohingya refugees’ former residence in Myanmar and right to return. The UNHCR stressed that any return of refugees to Myanmar is an individual and voluntary choice, if and when they feel conditions for a possible return are right.
In case the refugees decide to return, the UNHCR will assist them and when conditions are conducive to a safe and sustainable return, which right now is not the case. The right to return to Myanmar does not expire as time passes.