Bangladesh to stop taking in Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar
Bangladesh announced on Thursday that it stop taking in Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.
The crisis over the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh had gone from "bad to worse", Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told a UN security council meeting. He urged the council to take "decisive" action.
"Here, I regret to inform the council that Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar," said Haque.
Around 740,000 Rohingya have been living in camps in Bangladesh since they were driven out of Myanmar's northern Rakhine state during a military campaign in 2017 that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing and genocide.
They joined another 300,000 Rohingya who were already living in overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar following previous bouts of violence.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya are widely seen as interlopers from Bangladesh and have been denied citizenship, rights and access to services for decades. The military has denied accusations of abuses and said its operations were justified to root out Rohingya insurgents following a series of deadly attacks on police posts.
"Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighboring country?" asked the foreign secretary.
Myanmar agreed to repatriate some of the refugees under a deal reached with Bangladesh, but the UN says Rohingya should not be returned until their safety can be guaranteed.
Progress in efforts to return hundreds of thousands of refugees home has been slow, and the UN has not been given sufficient access to help, according to UN envoy Christine Schraner Burgener.
Burgener has warned that elections in Myanmar next year could exacerbate the crisis.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's de facto civilian leader, who has been criticized for refusal to denounce the killing, rape, torture and forced displacement of Rohingya, is seeking to consolidate her position ahead of the 2020 vote.
The country is still struggling with a democratic transition after 50 years of military rule. Myanmar's military maintains a firm grip on power despite political reforms which began in 2011. It holds a quarter of seats in parliament and controls three ministries in the Buddhist-majority nation.
Myanmar's Ambassador Hau Do Suan insisted his government was taking steps and asked others to be patient.
He said there were "huge physical as well as psychological barriers" impeding the refugees' return and stressed that "it takes time and patience as well as courage to build trust and confidence among different communities in Rakhine".
China, which has close ties with Myanmar, claimed that development aid could help ease tensions and said the security council should not intervene by addressing the refugee crisis.
Britain drafted a draft resolution that would have forced Myanmar to act on the crisis, but China threatened to veto the measure, according to diplomats.
"The scale of what has been done to the Rohingya Muslims and the allegations of crimes against humanity really mark this out as one of the most terrible events of this century so far," said British Ambassador Karen Pierce.