DHAKA: Bangladesh is refusing to accept more Rohingya fleeing Myanmar, with authorities saying on Wednesday that the country is already overburdened in supporting more than 1.2 million refugees.
The Rohingya have sought refuge in Bangladesh over decades after escaping death and persecution in Myanmar, especially during a military crackdown in 2017.
The developing country spends an estimated $1.2 billion annually to support the refugees, as international aid for the oppressed stateless minority has fallen since 2020.
Most of the Rohingya refugees live in squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar district, a coastal region in eastern Bangladesh.
“We are already overburdened with more than 1 million Rohingya,” Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner in Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.
“The people of Bangladesh certainly will not welcome any more Rohingya here. Hospitality in the host community has turned into hostility. In this context, there is nothing much we can do for the newly displaced (Rohingya from Myanmar).”
Rahman’s statement follows comments from other Bangladeshi officials, including Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, who told reporters earlier this month that Bangladesh “will not allow any more Rohingya to enter the country.”
Hundreds of people from Myanmar, including some Rohingya, have gathered at various points along Bangladesh’s border in recent weeks to seek shelter as the junta battles a strong resistance offensive.
Hundreds of Myanmarese border troops and police, some with bullet wounds, also sought refuge in Bangladesh during intense periods of fighting in early February.
“It can’t be said that the overall law and order situation is very good at the moment as almost every day there are incidents of murders … moreover, there have been new added tensions due to the unrest in the border areas,” Rahman said.
The Rohingya, which the UN has described as “one of the world’s most persecuted minorities,” have faced decades of discrimination and repression in Myanmar, where they are not recognized as an indigenous ethnic group and are denied the right to claim citizenship.
Thousands of Rohingya refugees embarked on deadly sea journeys from Bangladesh — and to a lesser extent from Myanmar — in 2023. Last year also saw the highest figure in nine years — 569 — of the number of Rohingya refugees who died or went missing during dangerous crossings.