This article is interesting in that it gives a flavour of what it is like to be born and grow up in a country and yet not be a full citizen of it. The article looks at a Bengali Paara (locality) in Karachi and the biharis in Bangladesh. But in terms of the forthcoming Bangladeshi elections, these figures are worth noting:
Official figures note that 15,000 refugees (sic, but referring to biharis) out of approximately 300,000 have applied for enrolment in the voting system to date. According to data collected from various sources, some 6,000 people spread across 70 different camps in Bangladesh preferred to register themselves. The number includes 360 inhabitants of Mohammadpur Geneva Camp, Dhaka. However, only 180 were able to provide all the information and photographs necessary for the registration process.
So firstly there is a discrepancy between the government figure (15,000 registered) and figures from other sources (6,000 registered) it seems. The same article hints at some of the apprehensions of the Bihari community which might be responsible for this. Many apparently felt that taking up citizenship would entail letting go of their current status ( The article incorrectly notes this status as “refugee status.” The biharis do not have refugee status in Bangladesh as far as the UNHCR is concerned. Their current status has some very meagre and rapidly vanishing benefits in terms of camp access to services etc). And it was this fear of losing out on these scraps of assistance that possibly explains the low numbers.
The article notes:
Their fears crystallised after several families in camps in Khalispur, Kulna were issued with legal notices ordering them to evacuate the camps, as they were no longer officially refugees.
The figures in the article are a bit surprising and I wonder why a newspaper would publish without references or anything. My own sources - Hasan Mohammad of AYGUSC tells me
- About 15,000 camp inmates living in Mohammadpur and Mirpur of Dhaka enlisted their names in this process. But the actual number of voters may be more.
- Out of the above number about 2,600 Geneva camp inmates enlisted their names and got NIC (official report)
- 80% of the total eligible voters will be enlisted in the voters list and NIC of 116 camps
- There are 116 settlements all over the country according to survey conducted by Al-Falah and UNHCR not 70 camps.