September 9, 2013

The government will do a headcount to ascertain the number of illegal Rohingya migrants in Bangladesh.

The decision was taken by the Cabinet in a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister on Monday after it approved the ‘National strategic paper on refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh and Myanmar citizen’s who have breached Bangladesh’s border.’

As per the National Strategic Paper, a survey will be conducted to determine the number of refugees from Myanmar, said Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.

“There are documented and undocumented refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh, which is a big risk for the country.”

A large number of Rohingya refugees entered Bangladesh because of a political crisis in Myanmar two decades ago. Since then, the flow of a small-scale illegal migration continued.

There are about 25,000 Rohingyas living in two camps in Cox’s Bazar. The government’s data suggest nearly another 500,000 or more are living outside the camps.

“Their long-term stay in Bangladesh resulted in socio-economic, political, environmental and security crises”, said Bhuiyan.

Several government organisations have documented the involvement of Rohingyas in various crimes. Many them, who sported Bangladeshi passports, were arrested in foreign countries.

Dhaka has requested Myanmar to make an effort to take back the Muslim Rohingya refugees but the Buddhist majority state has not responded yet, but discussions are said to be still on.

The Cabinet decided to keep fulfilling the basic needs of those living in the camps on humanitarian ground.

Bhuiyan said several measures to stop refugee infiltration from Myanmar would be put into effect at BGB posts and observation towers.

Dhaka is in discussion with Myanmar about the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees said the Cabinet Secretary, and diplomatic efforts would continue to solve some of the outstanding international issues.

A coordinated strategy would prove to be effective in solving the refugee crisis, said Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan.

The Foreign Ministry had discussed the issue with other ministries and organisations before placing the Strategy Paper before the Cabinet.

The Strategy paper mentions this inter-ministerial coordination, Bhuiyan said.

A national coordination committee would be headed by the Foreign Minister, and the Foreign Secretary would lead a National Task Force, said the Cabinet Secretary.

There will be district-level task forces headed by Deputy Commissioners, and Upazila Executive Officers would lead such bodies at the Upazilas.