DHAKA, 29 July: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said her government cannot afford to allow in any more Rohingyas fleeing persecution in the neighbouring Myanmar.
She said her country is already overpopulated and it is not Bangladesh’s responsibility to help all those coming in from across the border.
Hasina made the observations in an interview with Al Jazeera English, a Qatar-based news channel, on Friday (27 July) in London. She is in the UK on an invitation by Queen Elizabeth to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Olympic games.
The Prime Minister’s comments came at a time when the UNHCR and some human rights organizations insist that Bangladesh should provide shelter to Rohingya Muslim refugees displaced from the Rakhine state in Myanmar since June. Since sectarian clashes erupted in Rakhine state, Bangladesh has repeatedly turned down calls from different quarters to shelter Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds.
Refusing again to take any more refugee, Hasina said there are already around 300,000 Rohingyas living in refugee camps in her country. “Bangladesh is already an overpopulated country, we cannot bear this burden,” she said.
The Bangladesh premier categorically said Rohingya issue is an internal matter of Myanmar, so Myanmar should solve its own problem. She advised the international quarters to put pressure on Myanmar government, not on Bangladesh in this regard.
Sheikh Hasina claimed that Bangladeshi border guards, during the last two months, behaved humanitarianly with the Rohingya refugees who came to Bangladesh border areas. “ They (border guards) provided food for them, medicine for them, they provided money,” the premier said adding that the border guards persuaded the refugees to go back to their own country and they went back.
Responding to a question, Sheikh Hasina told Al Jazeera that her government had expressed concern to the government of Myanmar about how the Rohingya are treated in Arakan province. In reply Mynamar said it was creating a congenial atmosphere there, she added.
In another interview in London with Sunday Express, Sheikh Hasina warned of possible terrorist connections among the thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees trying to enter her country from Myanmar.
Hasina said she was concerned about the activities of Jamaat-e-Islami, an Islamic political party that has a power base near the border with Myanmar and which has previously been accused of terror links.
She alleged: “Jamaat-e-Islami is very much involved in terrorist activity, there’s no doubt about it and everybody knows that.”
Asked if she was concerned that Jamaat might be encouraging some refugees, the Prime Minister said, “We have some intelligence reports about it.”
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