Bangladesh Home Minister Sahara Khatun said in Parliament yesterday that the Rohingya issue still remains unresolved even though the government is trying to resolve the settlement of Rohingya through regional and international intervention. The Bangladesh Parliament raised the issue of foreign nationals’ status living as illegal immigrants in the country for a longtime. The Parliament wanted to know how authority is handling the issue.
The Home Minister explained to Parliament that there are some foreign nationals, most of them Rohingya refugees from Burma. They have been illegally staying in Bangladesh for years.
“Most of the illegal immigrants are Rohingya refugees coming from Burma,” the Sahara Khatun told Parliament on Monday in response to a question from Lutfur Rahman of Cox’s Bazaar-3 constituency which borders Arakan state of Burma.
“A few thousand Rohingyas are living in registered camps run by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Around 14,015 registered Rohingya refugees were staying at Kutupalong camps and 8,589 in a Nayapara camp in Teknaf. Over 12,000 Rohingyas live in unregistered Leda camp in Cox’s Bazaar, which runs with the help of EU,” the Home Minister said.
The process of repatriation of the Burmese refugees has remained stalled for more than five years. Dhaka has recently requested Rangoon to take their nationals back as such a large number of illegal immigrants had become a burden on Bangladesh, an over-populated country, the Home Minister said.
"With limited resources, Bangladesh had done more than enough for the refugees from Myanmar for the last three decades and Myanmar must take back its own people," Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, said at a meeting on the sidelines of the “3rd Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crimes’.
“Bangladesh's readiness to extend assistance to Myanmar for early repatriation of the remaining Rohingyas to their homeland, as the residual refugee problem had dragged on for years ---an evident reluctance on part of Yangon,” she said.
The Foreign Minister rejected the claims of the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs and Chief of Police of Myanmar that Rohingyas were not an ethnic entity of Myanmar.
"The refugee influx will not stop unless there is a qualitative change in Arakan state, in western Myanmar where the Rohingya people live,” Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told reporters in a press conference after visiting Burma and Bali in Indonesia.
“Myanmar authorities in December last year said Rohingyas were not Myanmar citizens but Bangladeshis. But, I presented historical data and necessary evidence on Rohingyas' Myanmarese identity at the meeting on trafficking in persons in Bali,” the Foreign Ministry told reporters.
"During my Myanmar visit (May 16-17), Myanmar leaders admitted that they are Myanmarese and agreed to take them back," the Foreign Minister said.
The remarks by Dipu Moni came after she made an official visit earlier in May to the Myanmar capital. She said she had made progress in getting Myanmar's military rulers to agree to take back displaced Rohingya people but did not divulge details.
The repatriation of Rohingya refugees was a ‘three-decade-old crisis’ and an attempt was made to solve the problem through diplomatic channels, under an agreement signed on 9 July, 1978, after the first influx of Burmese nationals into Bangladesh, the Foreign Minister, Dipu Moni said in a discussion meeting on Bangladesh-Burma relations on June 11.
“In the spirit of good neighbourly relations, Burma should take the refugees back after creating a friendly atmosphere, so that once the refugees are repatriated, they will be encouraged to stay on in their country,” she added.
Phae Thann Oo, the Burmese ambassador in Dhaka, has asked the Bangladeshi authorities to provide strong evidence of Rohingyas’ Burmese citizenship, while addressing a discussion meeting on Bangladesh-Burma relations.
“I also offered my government’s cooperation in this regard to Burmese authorities. They assured us that their door is open for the refugees after their Burmese identity is ascertained,” she added.
During the 14th ASEAN summit, Rais Yatim, Malaysia's Foreign Minister said ASEAN wants Myanmar to promise "not to persecute them when they go back". The Burmese military junta had agreed.
The exact cause of the recent rise in the number of refugees to Bangladesh is unknown, according to UN and NGO workers in the area.
According to local NGOs, more than 500,000 Rohingya are living in the border area, many of them blending with the local community, but, the UN estimates up to 300,000 Rohingyas live outside the camps.
A policy research and advocacy group, Neeti Gobeshona Kendro, on Monday urged the government to mobilise international pressure on Burma to resolve the long standing Rohingya refugee problem as it was no more a bilateral issue.
Neeti Gobeshona Kendro, in a statement said Bangladesh should involve the United Nations and regional forums for a permanent resolution of the problem so that the Rohingya people could lead a respectful life within the territory of Myanmar as its citizen.