The government of Bangladesh led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been facing a dilemma over a demand to shelter Rohingya Muslims fleeing deadly sectarian strife in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. The dilemma in the wake of an ongoing debate whether Bangladesh should allow more Rohingyas to enter the country or not, has seemingly embarrassed the government a lot.
With the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the government of the United states, the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia has joined the international groups to pressurise the government to shelter more Rohingyas. Meanwhile some leaders of civic society groups and non-governmental charity organisation in a joint statement called upon the government to shelter Rohingyas fleeing mayhem in Rakhine state.
It seems no easy test for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as every quarter has been demanding access for Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds, on the basis of which some
10 million Bangalees took shelter in India during Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. Had Indian not allowed the Bangalees to get into the country then what would had been happened? It seems too difficult for Awami League government to answer. But it seems that the government of Hasina will not have to answer the question immediately as the situation has started calming down gradually in Myanmar, bringing sigh of relief not only for Rohingyas, but also for the government of Bangladesh.
News agencies said on Saturday the strife has largely subsided in western Myanmar and there was no much further flare of violence barring few incidents of looting and burning of Rohingya homes. Over the past week Bangladesh has been wishing that the ongoing sectarian strife in western Myanmar subsides soon and Rohingya Muslims no more need to flee their homes. Because Bangladesh has been a traditional shelter for Rohingyas, who get easy shelter, food and other support to survive at least as refugees.
Bangladesh opened its borders always when there was persecution on Rohingyas since 1948. According to unofficial estimates, nearly 400,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees are scattered in Bangladesh especially in southeast Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts over the past years. These unregistered Rohingyas are in addition to some 30,000 registered Rohingyas, who have been awaiting repatriation in two refugee camps at Kutupalong and Nayapara under Cox’s Bazar district run by the government of Bangladesh and the UNHCR. Meanwhile Foreign Minister Dipu Moni reiterated on Friday that her government’s stance not to allow anymore Rohingyas to enter into the country was just and legal. “Out stance on Rohingya refugees are justified, legal and logical,” Dipu Moni told reporters at Chandpur on Friday. Bangladesh is now unable to shelter them for the greater interest of the country. They (Rohingyas) should be assisted by keeping them within Myanmar, the foreign minister said “We are doing a lot for registered Rohingya refugees in two camps in Cox’s Bazar and on humanitarian ground we are not expelling those tens of thousands other living here illegally for years,” Dipu Moni said.
Rohingyas, often labelled by officials as “economic refugees,” destroyed vast areas of forest land during their temporary settlement and became an economic bane for Bangladesh. According to police, the refugees also create law and order problem by indulging in social and moral crime including human trafficking. With the connivance of unscrupulous officials some of the Rohingyas, who look like locals in appearance and speak in almost identical dialect, manage Bangladeshi passports and even enrol themselves as voters creating extra socio-political hazards.