Ongoing discrimination, violence, and denial of rights and livelihood opportunities to Rohingya in their native Rakhine State, Myanmar, have led to multiple waves of displacement. Over 710,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017, joining 35,000 previously registered refugees and an additional 74,000 that fled Myanmar after violence that occurred in Rakhine State in October 2016. According to the United Nations, over 100,000 others migrated irregularly to other countries in the region between 2012 and 2016. These rapid and drastic disruptions resulted in many Rohingya families suddenly finding themselves indefinitely separated from one another across borders. In a context of protracted displacement and uncertainty, they strive to maintain cultural and family ties while coping with other hardships.

Almost one in five camp households (19 percent) has a family member who is currently in jail or was recently released. Seventy-two percent of these detained family members are in Myanmar, while most others are in Bangladesh, Malaysia, or Saudi Arabia.

Location of incarcerated relatives

300 respondents provided information about 354 incarcerated relatives

The great majority of incarcerated relatives are males. Communication with imprisoned relatives is rare.  Sixty-four percent of camp residents said their detained relatives had been imprisoned for less than three years as of late 2019, indicating that they were arrested around the time of the 2017 violence. Many detained during this time were given two- to three-year sentences, and camp residents report that releases accelerated in late 2019. In many cases, people described being arrested on charges of illegal travel after moving without permission from authorities.

Profile to detained relatives

633 respondents provided details for 1,072 relatives in third countries

Relationship to respondent

Percentage of camp households with detained relatives, by hometownship of the household


Years detained