Stats from Research in the Urdu-speaking Community of Bangladesh

Recent research supported by Islamic Relief Bangladesh surveyed 395 households who belong to the camp-based Urdu-speaking community in Mirpur, an area of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The survey, along with a few focus groups, explored the situation of the community in terms of income, education, discrimination, freedom of movement, and other rights.

The community received confirmation of their Bangladeshi nationality in a 2008 High Court decision, and this research also captured some basic statistics about the level of legal identity documentation in the Mirpur camps - as well as other community perspectives on citizenship documentation and rights:

When it comes to their Civil and Political Rights, a sinister trend begins to develop. Of those surveyed, 77.8 percent have no Birth Certificates yet almost 85 percent of them received their National Identity Cards. A focus group discussion revealed that the respondents knew of the importance of both NID and Birth Certificates, in terms of opening a bank account, applying for a job, to avail certain government service etc. Interestingly, of the 307 respondents without Birth Certificates, only 13 percent ever actually applied to get theirs. The issue of passports is another bone of contention. 5 percent of the respondents actually have a passport, many of those who don’t describe horror stories of when they applied. Some claim to have been asked to “prove their citizenship” whilst others were said to be rejected on the basis of not having a “permanent address” with their Geneva Camp addresses being refused all recognition.

The research finds that most people do have national ID cards - as the court ordered the government to issue these documents in 2008 - but acquiring other documentation and using this documentation to access rights and services remains a challenge. Many people who lack documents haven’t even tried to apply.

Namati and Council of Minorities (@urdu) partner on a joint paralegal program focused on citizenship, active in Urdu-speaking camp communities in 7 cities throughout Bangladesh. (Find more information on the Urdu-speaking community and the paralegal program here.) We plan to conduct an evaluation of the program soon, to understand better where paralegals are making an impact and where our program strategy needs refining, to truly solve many of the complex citizenship-related challenges highlighted in this article.

What are your reactions to the statistics on documentation? What kinds of research or data have supported your own efforts to design and refine citizenship rights program strategies? Could this kind of information influence change within local or national government practice in Bangladesh? @mustafa_mahmoud @Zamil @zia @ManishaPoudel @SomPrasadNiroula @lore @aishakhagai @ctheano


The statistics are so overwhelming and clearly elaborates how the documents are important towards accessing services and also for the development of the community.

To my amusement @lauragoodwin i just came across a write up today morning in LinkedIn on the progress of Bangladesh towards fighting poverty and also women related issues. Going through this write up and several others clearly shows that the issues on citizenship rights are not given so much focus and attention as it should hence the Urdhu speaking community being at a disadvantage.

I think there is need to have a massive awareness creation by the paralegals on the issues and have these statistics presented to the local or National Government which i believe will influence change and maybe also have an amendment of laws that tend to discriminate them from attaining the necessary documents.


The statistics helps to measures the extent of deprivation of their basic rights and level of injustice to the community. I am really surprised by the following sentences that how much measurable life they are passing!!! "Typically, 10 families share a single room, with one latrine shared by almost 90 families, on a daily basis. Long queues are formed before solitary water pumps every day"

To improve their hygienic condition Namati may /should take few initiative as supporting help with existing citizenship program. Without improving their measurable condition comprehensive legal empowerment would be difficult.

Awareness rate seems a great success of the Namai program. Yes, the statistics will help to refine the strategy specially to make it more comprehensive and holistic.

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Thanks for sharing this statistics. I was a resource person at one of the workshops on citizenship rights organised by Council of Minorities. I was amazed to meet some of the spirited young people from the community. I now live near the Mirpur camp and on my way home I can see the struggle of the people living in the camp. This study truly encapsulates the plight of the people in terms of not only living but also their struggle to have their right to be a citizen in this country.

I am attending as a resource person in another workshop on 5th of November where the audience is a group of journalists. This study will help me enormously and I will bring back my experience of the workshop and share with you all.