South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Updates foreign office on fresh initiative; newly formed Myanmar govt also agrees to discuss undocumented Rohingyas in Bangladesh

The newly formed government of Myanmar has agreed to take back registered Rohingya refugees currently staying at two refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar but made no decision on the large number of unregistered Rohingyas living in Bangladesh.

The number of refugees in Nayapara and Kutupalong camps is now 28,000 and the Myanmar government agreed that a large portion of the listed refugees are Myanmar nationals, said Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes yesterday at a press briefing at the foreign ministry.

Apart from the refugees, a huge number of undocumented Myanmar nationals are living in Bangladesh without refugee status, he said referring to the unregistered Rohingyas.

“Although they do not have refugee status, we are not forcing them out of the country on humanitarian ground,” Quayes said, adding that the Myanmar authorities have agreed to discuss the undocumented nationals.

The refugees at the camps had declined to return, he said hoping that they may have the confidence to go back now as Myanmar has a new government.

Bangladesh, Myanmar and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) took a fresh initiative to return the refugees to their homeland, said Quayes, who attended Foreign Office Consultations held in Myanmar on August 25.

Both governments are in discussion to launch synchronised patrol of the common border by border guards of the two countries to stop fresh influx of Myanmar citizens into Bangladesh, Quayes said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to visit Myanmar soon to discuss this issue among others but the date of the trip has not been fixed yet, he added.

According to different sources, there are more than 300,000 unregistered Rohingyas living among the local population, in slums and villages mostly throughout Cox’s Bazar district but also in smaller numbers in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

The foreign secretary told the press conference that the huge number of undocumented Rohingyas was damaging the environment, creating social problems and disrupting our job market abroad.

Their presence is damaging the forests in Cox’s Bazar and the CHT, and the social environment of the locality as many are involved in different types of anti-social and criminal activities, like prostitution and smuggling.

Rohingyas began fleeing Burma in the late 1970s, although the biggest influx was in 1992 when an estimated 250,000 fled to Bangladesh. Most of them were repatriated following an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar with the UNHCR supervision.

Source: The Daily Star – 16.10.2011