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Between the camps and the sea: the dual impact of climate change and Rohingya refugee aid policies on Bangladeshi host communities

Authors: Yasmin Khan*, University of Toronto
Topics: Migration, Human-Environment Geography, Asia
Keywords: refugee aid, Rohingya, Bangladesh, Political Ecology, Climate Change, Environmental Impacts, Humanitarian Aid, Critical Refugee Studies, South Asia, Refugee Camp Geographies, Critical Refugee Studies, Vulnerability, Rural Geographies, Forced Migration Studies
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

A significant outcome of the record number of 70.8 million displaced people are long-term refugee camps, 85 percent of which are hosted in the Global South. Within forced migration research, the social-environmental impacts of refugee aid policies on the vulnerability of poor host communities remains largely understudied and stronger links are needed between vulnerability research and aid policy and practice (Eakin & Luers, 2006). I argue that donor-funded refugee aid policies (re)produce gendered climate vulnerability of already precarious host communities in Bangladesh. This “vulnerabilisation” (Taylor, 2015) of local communities through refugee aid is evident in Bangladesh, a country impacted by climate change and the site of the world’s largest refugee camp that swelled to 1 million Rohingya in August 2017. The concurrent arrival of refugee humanitarian aid agencies and donor-funded policies and practices have impacted forests, land, and water resources, compromising climate adaptation strategies of poor Bangladeshi populations, populations that are largely invisible to U.N. and NGO aid agencies. The outcome of these impacts also have gendered implications as women and girls are often wood and water collectors, and have higher incidences of mortality during extreme weather events. Investigating impacts of refugee aid on non-refugee communities is one way to diversify vulnerability research, adding new insight to the systemic reproduction of climate vulnerability including concerns of equity and social justice.

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