The Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni told the Burmese ambassador on Wednesday, “Rohingyas are your citizens, and it is your concern to take them back in Myanmar from Bangladesh.”
Dipu Moni told Ambassador Myo Myint Than that Burma has a responsibility to repatriate Rohingya refugees, who are estimated to number as high as 500,000, in order to strengthen the bilateral relationship, according to BSS, the national news agency of Bangladesh.
Burma’s President Thein Sein is scheduled to visit Bangladesh sometime after Ramadan, which starts on Friday and continues for 30 days.
Bangladesh would offer assistance to start the repatriation process that has remained stalled for decades, the foreign minister said.
Official statistics show nearly 30,000 documented Rohingya refugees and 450,000 undocumented refugees, many of whom left Burma in the early 1990s to avoid persecution, now reside in Bangladesh, often in squalid camps and makeshift settlements. Rohingyas are denied citizenship in Burma, and the UN says the group is among the most persecuted in the world.
The foreign minister urged Burma to solve the refuge problem and said it appreciated the steps the government took to quell the sectarian unrest that swept over Arakan State during the past six weeks.
The foreign minister said Rohingyas used to live in Arakan [now Rakhine] State and they still prefer to be identified as Burmese nationals.
Bangladesh has come under strong international pressure to accept Rohingya refugees who tried to flee Burma during the recent violence, which saw up to 79 people die and 3,000 homes and businesses burned.
Up to 50,000 Royingya Muslims and Burmese Buddhist are now in refugee camps in Rakhine State, where an international humanitarian operation is underway to provide food, shelter and medicine.
A solution to the Rohingya refugee issue will prove difficult to solve.
Last week, President Thein Sein told a UN refugee official that that non-citizen Rohingya Muslims in far western Burma should be placed in refugee camps or deported.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres rejected the suggestion, saying it was not the UN’s job to resettle the Rohingya.
“The resettlement programs organized by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it's not related to this situation,” Guterres told the media after a meeting with the president.
Thein Sein said that Rohingya were not welcome in Burma.
“We will take responsibility for our ethnic people, but it is impossible to accept the illegally entered Rohingyas, who are not our ethnicity,” he told Guterres, according to the president's official website.
The president said the move was the “only solution.” Within Burma, there is widespread resentment against the Rohingyas – who number around 800,000 in Burma –and who are called “Bengali” by most Burmese.
“We will send them away if any third country would accept them,” Thein Sein said. “This is what we are thinking is the solution to the issue.”