The government is yet to decide whether or not to grant Bangladeshi citizenship to Rohingya children born here. Immigration experts say children of the Rohingya born in Bangladesh cannot be called Bangladeshi by birth. Government officials say the matter depends on the government’s Rohingya policy.
An estimated 16,000 Rohingya women who arrived in Bangladesh are pregnant, Cox's Bazar Civil Surgeon Sheikh Abdus Salam said, adding that 210 women gave birth between August 25 and September 22.
Asif Munier, an expert on refugees and migration, said children of the Rohingya would naturally be considered Rohingya or citizens of Myanmar. “They will not be Bangladeshi by birth. But the current situation is a bit different. They are living here temporarily,” he said.
Munier explained that stranded Biharis were dubbed Biharis until they were given citizenship. “But that's not an option here. These children will be registered as Rohingya,” he added.
It will be a different matter if they end up staying in this country for some reason, Munier said. “If Bangladesh ever discusses this matter with Myanmar, it should emphasise what happens to these children. The discussion should also include who would get custody of orphans, who arrived here with their relatives and neighbours.”
“So far, it seems these children would be seen as Myanmar citizens. The government should give swift directions in this matter. It should quickly decide whether or not to bio-metrically register these children like the adults,” he added.
The Rohingya are the largest stateless community and one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Myanmar denies them citizenship and considers them illegal immigrant from Bangladesh. Many are forced to live in apartheid-like condition in squalid camps and denied basic rights.
More than 430,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh since August 25 after a brutal Myanmar military offensive targeting Rohingya villages, following attacks on police posts and an army base by insurgents.
Bangladesh currently shelters 800,000 Rohingya, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the UN General Assembly.
Munier said Bangladesh should make a list of Rohingya children born in Bangladesh and keep the list until a final decision is taken on citizenship.
Ukhiya Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md Moin Uddin said the citizenship issue depended on the government. “There are about 14,000 registered Rohingya in the camp. Last year, the government decided to record the births of children of the registered Rohingya. We had started the process,” he said.
The UNO said there was a criteria in the registration, which was that the birth certificates would have a seal saying the children were Myanmar citizens.
“That process was only for the registered Rohingya. There is no government decision on the several hundred thousand undocumented Rohingya. The birth registration has been stopped since the latest influx,” he added.
Moin Uddin said, “We will work as per the government's instructions. But so far, we have received no directive from the government to register births of Rohingya children.”
When asked if Rohingya children born in Bangladesh would get Bangladeshi citizenship, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said: “It is not possible to say anything about citizenship of the Rohingya children. It completely depends on the government's policies.”
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune