Due to the waves of displacement that have separated Rohingya families over the past several decades, many people in camp households have an immediate family member living in another country. They are less likely to have a relative in Myanmar than in other countries, like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
Three-quarters of those abroad began their travels from Myanmar, with the majority departing after 2010. Other destination countries include Thailand, India, and Indonesia. Seven percent of camp residents’ relatives in third countries are in Western nations, where most were formally resettled by the UNHCR.
Most separated family members possess no travel documents and have little prospect of reuniting.
Smuggling fees varied greatly for these journeys. The average cost for those who traveled by boat to Malaysia between 2012 and 2015 was 2.1 million Myanmar kyat. It is not known what percentage of income this represented for these families, but it is roughly equivalent to 62 percent of Myanmar’s average annual household income at the time, approximately 3.4 million kyat.
Families financed these journeys in a number of ways, with more than half pooling funds from multiple sources. Among all methods of financing these journeys, selling assets or property was the most common. Many did so in order for the departing household member to escape immediate danger, while in other cases people fled after a longer process of deliberation.
For those living in the camps, having relatives abroad can be a helpful way to cope with the challenges of refugee life. Remittances help fill the gap between the sustenance they receive as aid and the higher actual cost of living. But these are only available to a minority of households.