Bangladesh refuses to take back Rohingya refugees

New Delhi: In what is seen as a shocking lack of sensitivity, the Bangladesh government is apparently turning away from its responsibility to take back a group of Rohingya refugees, mostly women, who are currently adrift in the high seas after escaping from refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

India wants Bangladesh to take them back. Bangladesh is passing on the buck to India. This has the potential for a diplomatic problem between the two neighbors, particularly as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to Dhaka on March 26. The Indian government issued a note to Bangladesh, but there is no reply yet from Dhaka.

The recent Home Secretary-level talks between the two countries saw Indian officials making a strong case for Bangladesh to take the refugees back.

However, Bangladesh foreign minister, A. K. Abdul Momen said, “They are not Bangladesh nationals and in fact, they are Myanmar nationals. They were found 1,700 km (1,100 miles) away from the Bangladesh maritime territory and therefore, we have no obligation to take them.”

The boatload of 81 Rohingya refugees — 64 women and girls, 26 men and boys — sailed from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh on February 11. On February 15, the boat developed engine failure, and since then have been drifting on the high seas.

The fact is Bangladesh is finding it hard to handle the Rohingya refugees — in 2017, Sheikh Hasina welcomed them when they were driven out of Myanmar.

According to Bangladesh security officials, the refugee camp population in Cox’s Bazar grows by 64000 a year. (The Times of India)

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