Bangladesh alone can’t take Rohingya responsibilities: Dhaka tells UK

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has called for a shared responsibility of neighbourhood countries and developed nations in sheltering Rohingyas as UK’s state minister for its foreign and commonwealth office called him over the 500 reportedly stranded Rohingyas in Bay of Bengal.

“In terms of number 500 is not a big figure when Bangladesh has sheltered over 1.1 million Rohingyas on humanitarian ground despite our resource constraints as a developing country,” an official familiar with the talks quoted Momen as telling the British minister.

“But, they are not within the Bangladesh boundary.”

A foreign ministry statement, meanwhile, said the British state minister Lord Ahmad called Momen late yesterday and requested Dhaka to allow entry of boats carrying 500 Rohigyas to land in the country’s southwestern coast.

It said Momen told him that the boats were not on the Bangladesh coastlines and wondered why Bangladesh alone was being asked to provide them the refuge, discarding other countries in the region.

He said the other countries in South and South East Asia and developed nations as well should simultaneously shoulder responsibilities of providing refuge to the displaced people.

Momen, the statement said, suggested that the UK as well could send a Royal ship to rescue the stranded Rohingyas in the mid sea and shelter them.

The foreign minister feared that the situation could prompt the remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state could try to enter Bangladesh as military crackdowns were still underway to kill them and oust the ethnic minority people from their homeland.

Yet, Momen regretted, different countries including European Union kept on investing in Myanmar and the human rights bodies are not vocal over the issues.

The Bangladesh foreign minister said many Bangladeshi expatriate workers become jobless and exposed to extreme sufferings in some Middle Eastern countries amid COVID-19 shutdowns and sought British support for them on humanitarian ground.

“The developed world including the UK should be vocal in retaining their (migrant workers in ME) jobs under humanitarian ground,” the statement quoted him as saying.

Momen also urged UK cooperation so the British buyers refrain from canceling their orders for Bangladesh garments products during this global crisis exposing the RMG sector to a difficult situation.

He urged the UK to make a special fund to keep rolling the supply chain of the readymade garments in the UK amid coronavirus pandemic and post COVID-19 period.

The foreign minister also informed the British sate minister that Bangladesh would send medical supply to the UK as a gift for helping British government combating deadly coronavirus.

The British minister’s call came as international media reports suggested that two boats carrying an estimated 500 Rohingya women, men and children – were floating on the sea after their failed attempt to land in Malaysia, where they denied entry.

Several international rights groups and aid agencies including UNHCR earlier appeared critical on the role of Dhaka and other countries in the region in rescuing the floating people who were at sea for weeks without adequate food and water”

Momen earlier told a foreign TV channel that just weeks ago, Bangladesh rescued 396 people from a vessel that had been adrift for about two months after also failing to reach Malaysia.

“Why should Bangladesh take the responsibility every time? . . . Bangladesh has already taken more than a million of Rohingya. We are running out of our generosity now,”Momen said.

Amnesty International last week called upon Southeast Asian governments to launch immediate search and rescue operations for Rohingyas languishing at sea adding that the COVID-19 pandemic should be a pretext for governments to abandon their responsibilities towards refugees.

“Bangladesh cannot be left to address this situation alone. The fact that it is upholding its own obligations is not an excuse for others to abandon theirs,” the global right watchdog’s South Asia director Biraj Patnaik said in a statement.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) also said that “all countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, have the responsibility”.

It said the international law obligate all these countries to respond to boats in distress, enact or coordinate rescue operations within their search and rescue operations, and not to push back asylum seekers risking their lives at sea.

Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million forcefully displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar district and most of them arrived there since August 25, 2017 after a military crackdown by Myanmar, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” by other rights groups.