Bangladesh will no longer accept any more Rohingya Muslims amid reports of hundreds of refugees stranded at sea trying to enter the country. This announcement came just a day after Amnesty International lauded the Bangladeshi government for rescuing around 500 refugees from the Bay of Bengal.
According to reports, two fishing trawlers carrying an estimated 500 Rohingya women, men, and children are in the Bay of Bengal. The trawlers heading to Bangladesh had arrived on its territorial waters on April 15.
The boats had earlier tried to enter Malaysia but they were forced to leave, after they were given food and water by the Malaysian Navy.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday categorically stated that the country will not accept any more members of the Rohingya Muslims.
“I am opposed to allowing these Rohingya into the country because Bangladesh is always asked to take care of the responsibility of other countries,” Foreign Minister Momensaid Thursday night. “We can no longer allow [in]any Rohingya.
“We have decided we won’t allow any new Rohingya. This is for the normal time in addition to the COVID-19 situation. We don’t want to accept any people in areas that we want to keep protected,” Momen said.
The foreign minister pointed out that Bangladesh now had to deal with welcoming back thousands of expatriates who had returned home because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bangladesh government has ordered increased patrol of its navy in the Bay of Bengal to stop the boats from entering, the foreign minister added.
“Previously, we accepted a batch of Rohingya who were caught in the Bay of Bengal. Now, more boats are waiting to enter Bangladesh,” he said.
He said international groups always turned to Bangladesh to shelter, protect and care for Rohingya. More than 1 million stateless Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are sheltering in sprawling camps and settlements in Cox’s Bazar.
A local coast guard commander echoed the minister’s message.
“Our position is clear: Not a single Rohingya will be allowed to enter. Any trawler carrying Rohingya that tries to enter Bangladesh will be resisted,” Lt. Cmdr. M. Saiful Islam, staff officer of the Coast Guard’s Chittagong East Zone, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
About 740,000 Rohingya fled to camps in and around Cox’s Bazar from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, beginning in August 2017, after the Myanmar military launched a brutal offensive in response to deadly attacks by a rebel group on government security posts. They joined hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya who had previously fled cycles of violence in Myanmar.
On Thursday, UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, joined Amnesty International in calling on countries to welcome in Rohingya refugees.
“In the context of the unprecedented current COVID-19 crisis, all states must manage their borders as they see fit. But such measures should not result in the closure of avenues to asylum, or of forcing people to return to situations of danger,” UNHCR said in a statement on its website. (Source: RFA)