Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bangladesh Blocks Refugee Registration for Burmese Muslims Outside Camps

Muslims from Burma who are now living outside refugee camps in Bangladesh have been denied the chance to register as refugees with the UNHCR by the Bangladesh government due to fear of triggering an exodus of Muslims from Burma, according to official reports.

Bangladesh Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque refused to allow the registration when he met recently with UNHCR representative to Bangladesh, Craig Sanders, at the secretariat.

"International agencies, including UNHCR, are creating pressure on the government to register more Refugees living outside the camps. We, being a poor nation can not give shelter to so many refugees and therefore want their repatriation to their homeland," Razzaque said.

Thousands of Muslims from Burma, who are known internationally as Rohingya, are living outside of Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar without any kind of help from the outside world.

International organizations are now pressing the government of Bangladesh to allow registration of more Rohingya refugees outside the camps on humanitarian grounds.

The minister added, "If the government started registering more Rohingyas, it would encourage a fresh influx of the refugees into Bangladesh and worsen law and order in the coastal districts of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar."

About 25,000 Burmese Muslim refugees living in camps have been registered as refugees, but many thousands more living outside the camp are being denied the chance to register as refugees by the Bangladesh government.

"The Rohingya refugee issue was no longer a national problem of the country as it has become a regional concern. The Rohingya refugees, also illegally migrating to Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, have become a regional concern," he said.

Dhaka has tried to repatriate the Burmese refugees staying in camps in Cox's Bazar through negotiations with Rangoon since they came to Bangladesh in 1992, but the plan has remained unsuccessful.

Muslims who are living in northern Arakan State in Burma have been illegally crossing into Bangladesh on a daily basis, despite intensified patrols on the border by the Bangladesh Rifles.

Bangladesh Food and Disaster Management Minister Abdur Razzaque also refuted international media reports that Bangladesh police had launched a crackdown on the Rohingya refugees, saying some non-governmental organizations were involved in the propaganda for their own interest.

The minister warned that the authorities are trying to identify the NGOs involved in such activities, saying, "We have asked the NGO bureau to investigate the matter and take action."