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Bangladesh: High Court Grants Citizenship to Stateless Bihari Refugees

(June 2, 2008) The people known in Bangladesh as “Biharis” are the people of Bihar who migrated to East Pakistan prior to the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Neither Pakistan nor India offered citizenship to these migrants, and as a result the Biharis have remained stateless and living in refugee camps for the thirty-six years following the independence of Bangladesh. The non-governmental organization Refugees International has urged the governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh to grant citizenship to the Biharis. Pakistan has not taken action on this issue despite repeated requests from the Bangladesh Government.

On May 19, 2008, the Bangladesh High Court ruled to approve citizenship and voting rights for about 150,000 refugees who were minors at the time of Bangladesh's war of independence in 1971 or were born after independence. The rest would continue to live in the camps, run by the Bangladesh government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. (Shahnaz Parveen, Citizenship Debate Comes to End But Doubts and Worries Remain, DAILY STAR, June 5, 2008, available at