Bangladesh IDP Figures Analysis

IDMC estimates that there are at least 431,000 IDPs in Bangladesh as a result of conflict and violence as of January 2015.


The number of people newly displaced in 2014 is unknown. There are two large groups of IDPs as a result of conflict and violence:

  1. 280,000 IDPs belong to minority indigenous groups or to the Bengali majority and are in the three south-eastern districts of Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban, which together make up the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region.

  2. More than 151,000 IDPs are Urdu-speaking people and live in the country’s urban centres, almost half of them in the capital Dhaka.

An unknown number of minority Hindus and Buddhists are also internally displaced across the country.

Most IDPs live outside camps. IDPs in CHT live in villages close to their home areas. When first displaced in 1971, Urdu-speaking IDPs moved to camps near their home areas, which have since evolved into slum-like informal settlements (Redclift, June 2013, p.24; IRIN, 27 August 2013).

IDPs in CHT belong to 11 local indigenous or adibashi groups (collectively known as Pahari or Jumma) following Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism or animist faiths, and to Bangladesh’s Muslim Bengali majority community (ECOSOC, 18 February 2011, p.4; Adnan, May 2011, p.42). The more than 151,000 Urdu-speaking IDPs are Muslims but constitute a linguistic minority in Bangladesh. No data disaggregated by age or gender is available on either group.

Bangladesh has also experienced large-scale displacement due to disasters exacerbated by climate change. In 2013, cyclone Mahasen, the Brahmanbaria tornado and floods displaced 1.1 million, 37,000 and 22,000 people, respectively (IDMC, 17 September 2014, p.58; IDMC database, 9 October 2014; IDMC database, 9 October 2014; Reuters, 23 May 2013). In 2014, floods displaced more than 325,000 (IFRC, 8 September 2014, p.1). The number of people who remain displaced after fleeing disasters is unknown.

Displacement in CHT is the result of an armed insurgency from 1973 to 1997, inter-communal violence and forced evictions (van Schendel, 2009, pp.149-150;Adnan, May 2011, p.42; NHRC, October 2014, p.42). Urdu speakers became displaced during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence (Redclift, 2010, pp.3-4; van Schendel, 2009, p.173; UNHCR, December 2009, p.1; Kelley, 2009, p.7;RSQ, 2006, pp.54-55).

Hindus and Buddhists were targeted by inter-communal violence in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but the overall number of people displaced is unknown (GHRD, April 2013, pp.3-5; BBC, 9 March 2013; IRIN, 23 January 2014; Daily Star, 6 January 2014; Daily Star, 7 January 2014).

No systematic data collection takes place, and the information made available by the government, NGOs, academics and media sources is often limited, contested and outdated. Given that an unknown number of IDPs are all but invisible among urban slum dwellers, the overall figure is likely to be an underestimate.

Most IDPs are protracted as the duration of their displacement is disproportionate, with some displaced for over 40 years; they are discriminated against when it comes to obtaining restitution or adequate compensation for their lost land as well as accessing civil documentation, education and employment; and they will likely remain limited in their settlement choice for some time to come, including as a result of insecure tenure.

From a 2009 report by the Bangladesh Human Development Research Centre (BHDRC), we determined that as of 2007 there were 275,070 IDPs in CHT. Based on an average household size of 5.2, 291,200 people were displaced between 1977 and 2007, and 16,130 among them returned during the same period (BHDRC, April 2009, pp.41-46;IDMC, 19 January 2015, pp.8-9). No assessment has since been carried out to determine to what extent those affected have achieved durable solutions, but IDMC believes that most could still be displaced. Available sources also suggest that thousands of people have been displaced in CHT since 2007 (IDMC, 19 January 2015, p.9).

IDMC’s current estimate of more than 151,000 Urdu-speaking IDPs is based on an unpublished survey conducted by the NGO Al-Falah in 2006, which yielded 151,368 Urdu speakers living in 116 informal urban settlements that developed out of the camps set up when they were first displaced (Redclift, 2012, pp.64, 279-286). They have received no restitution or compensation for their lost land and property, suffer from tenure insecurity and continue to face discrimination when it comes to obtaining passports and accessing educational and employment opportunities as well as health services (New Age, 17 June 2014; Redclift, 22 July 2014). As such, IDMC considers them to be IDPs. It first started including this group in its analysis of internal displacement in Bangladesh in January 2015.

Displacement in CHT peaked in 2000, when the government reported 128,364 families living as IDPs (PCJSS, January 2013, p.50). Based on an average family size of 5.2, the overall figure was likely to have been around 667,000 people (IDMC, 30 December 2011, p.20). No assessment of how many IDPs have reached durable solutions and should thus no longer be considered IDPs has been made. In developing its current estimate of 280,000 IDPs in CHT, IDMC therefore relied on the number of more than 275,000 IDPs as of 2007, which was calculated based on information in BHDRC’s 2009 report, and sources which indicate that several thousand have been displaced in recent years.

Numbers of Urdu speakers originally displaced during the 1971 war of independence are disputed, but their numbers were likely in the hundreds of thousands. IDMC estimates that their current number is more than 151,000 as a result of population growth (Redclift, 2010, pp.3-4; Redclift, 2012, pp.64, 279-286; van Schendel, 2009, p.173; UNHCR, December 2009, p.1; Kelley, 2009, p.7; RSQ, 2006, pp.54-55).

IDMC uses only the most credible accurate information available. Notwithstanding the caveats and limitations of the source information described above, IDMC believes this to be the best data and is grateful to the partners for sharing it.