Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Friday categorically stated that the country will not accept any more members of the Rohingya Muslims, amidst reports of hundreds of refugees stranding at sea trying to enter Bangladesh.
According to the reports, two fishing trawlers carrying an estimated 500 Rohingya women, men, and children were in the Bay of Bengal. The trawlers heading to Bangladesh had arrived there on April 15. The boats had earlier tried to enter Malaysia but they were forced to leave, after which they reached Bangladesh coast.
Foreign Minister Momen said that Bangladesh is opposed to allowing these Rohingyas into the country because the country is always asked to take care of the responsibility of other countries. “We can no longer allow any Rohingya”, he added. The foreign minister added that the country had accepted a batch of Rohingya who was caught in the Bay of Bengal.
“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 on Thursday.
Momen pointed out that Bangladesh now had to deal with welcoming back thousands of expatriates who had returned home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Bangladesh has ordered increased patrols in the Bay of Bengal to stop the boats entering, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen reportedly said.
“Two boats carrying Rohingya are trying to get into our waters,” he said, adding that the vessels could have come from Myanmar’s Rakhine State following fighting between the military and rebel groups, or somewhere else.
“Our Navy and coastguard are on alert. No more Rohingya will be allowed in,” Minister Momen said.
The boats carrying Rohingyas came near Bangladesh borders last week were earlier forced back by the Malaysian navy. The surviving Rohingya have been put into coronavirus pandemic quarantine, organised by the UN refugee agency.
“Previously, we accepted a batch of Rohingya who were caught in the Bay of Bengal. Now, more boats are waiting to enter Bangladesh,” the minister said.
Two weeks ago Bangladesh had rescued almost 400 Rohingya Muslims who were drifting in the sea on a boat for two months after they were denied entry by Malaysia. 28 persons on the boat had died due to starvation during the two months time. More than 400 Rohingya from refugee camps in Bangladesh had gone to Malaysia in January on a fishing trawler, but they were not allowed entry due to restrictions imposed following the Coronavirus pandemic.
Human Rights agencies urge countries to rescue Rohingyas
Amnesty International had said Bangladesh should rescue the stranded Rohingyas and also urged other governments in the region should “fulfil their shared responsibility to carry out search and rescue efforts”.
On Thursday, UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, joined Amnesty International in urging 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.
Nearly one million Rohingya Muslims currently stay in camps on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border due to the alleged persecution in their home region in Rakhine. The Rohingya Muslims are attempting to flee the camps for other more affluent Asian nations.