The government of Bangladesh is reluctant to grant refugee status to the Rohingya people who have fled Myanmar since the brutal military crackdown began on August 25.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has asked Bangladesh to grant refugee status to the Rohingya on several occasions, but senior officials believe this will only make it more difficult to return the Rohingya to Myanmar.
“On several occasions, the UNHCR requested Bangladesh to grant refugee status to Rohingya but Bangladesh has decided against the move for now,” a government official told Bangla Tribune on condition of anonymity.
“If Myanmar wants to take back the Rohingya then they can do so anytime, regardless of their refugee status. (But) the way the Rohingya were persecuted in the last four decades the chance of Myanmar taking them back is thin.”
Stating that Myanmar earlier refused to take back Rohingya living in refugee camps since 2005, the official said Myanmar has not yet changed its stance regarding the Rohingya even after facing widespread criticism from the international community.
The government official also expressed concern that the Cox’s Bazar region might “turn into a refugee colony.”
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On Monday, Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya held a meeting with UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi at the secretariat to discuss the refugee crisis.
Briefing the media after the meeting, Maya said: “Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar are trespassers.”
The UNHCR chief had reiterated the agency’s request at a press conference the day before.
“We must grant refugee status to the Rohingya who fled from Myanmar and we must take further steps to support them,” he urged.
Since the Myanmar security forces launched the latest crackdown in retaliation of insurgent attacks late last month, more than 436,000 Rohingya refugees had crossed over to Bangladesh to escape the military persecution up to Monday, according to the UNHCR.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune