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.

Location of immediate family members living outside Myanmar and Bangladesh—the vast majority still reside in Asia

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

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.

Family separation and mobility

Relatives in a third country


of households have an immediate family member who remains in Myanmar or lives aboard

This includes:

have a relative in Myanmar

have a relative in a third country

39% of relatives in third country:

are in Malaysia

are in Saudi Arabia

are in a diaspora spanning Asia, Europe, Australia and North America

58%are in Malaysia

28%are in Saudi Arabia

14%are in a diaspora spanning Asia,
Europe, Australia and North America


of households received a remittance in the past year

Incarcerated family members

have at least one incarcerated family member.

72% of these are in Myanmar and

11% are in Bangladash