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BA/Leverhulme Grant to help fund Rohingya Refugee Research

Image Source: DW/A.Islam

Dr Simon Behrman, Associate Professor at Warwick Law School has been awarded a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant of £9,752 towards his project “Assessing Rights to Bangladeshi Citizenship of Stateless Rohingya Children.”

In recent years some 900,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar. Their situation is precarious as most are stateless and Bangladesh has no legal framework for people to claim refugee status. However, Rohingya children who have been born to at least one Bangladeshi parent, which accounts for around 36,0000 people, have a strong claim to citizenship under both Bangladeshi and international law. Yet citizenship rights have not been granted to most of these children.

The project will investigate why this failure has occurred, and what legal and political strategies can be mobilised to rectify it. The funding awarded will pay for travel to Bangladesh to interview affected refugees, along with lawyers, judges and NGOs involved in the process for applying for Bangladeshi citizenship, to gather first hand testimonies of the legal and bureaucratic difficulties they face in making these claims for citizenship.

The trip will be combined with presenting the initial project findings at one of the major research centres on forced migration in South Asia, the Calcutta Research Group.

The initial aim of this project is to better understand what legal and administrative blockages are preventing eligible Rohingya refugee children from gaining Bangladeshi citizenship. However, it is also part of a much bigger research project on asylum in South Asia that he is working on. This wider research seeks to understand better the practices of asylum in a region that, on the one hand, has no specific refugee law framework, yet on the other hand has been and continues to be one of the largest refugee-hosting regions in the world.

The focus of Simon’s research has always been on examining the gaps in international refugee law, and a critique of that legal regime as being fundamentally exclusionary in respect of most forced migrants. “What interests me about South Asia is that it has never had a refugee law framework, while at the same time it has been the site of some of the largest refugee movements in history, from Partition in 1947 through to the Bangladesh War of Independence in 1971, to more recent arrivals of refugees from Afghanistan and Myanmar.”

“In many ways the Rohingya are an exemplar of what works and what does not work in terms of asylum in the region. Due to their complex history both under British colonial rule, and with the creation of separate states out of the former Raj, they have found themselves treated as outsiders everywhere, and treated appallingly without the kind of guarantees on offer by international refugee law. And yet, they have managed to reach and be granted protection in neighbouring countries, especially Bangladesh, in large numbers. Moreover, even without refugee law, there remain domestic laws as well as other human rights norms that potentially offer them a larger scope for protection than offered under international refugee law.”

“So this research project is seeking to examine this particular conundrum as part of assessing what works and what does not work in the wider tradition and practice of asylum in the region.”

Congratulations on the funding Simon and best of luck with the project.

Tue 30 Mar 2021, 10:00 | Tags: Award, Research, Staff in action, Funding