In the face of criticism from some quarters over limiting the movement of Rohingya refugees outside their camps in Cox’s Bazar, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Information and Communication technology (ICT) Adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy stated that the Bangladesh administration had to introduce the policy to ensure the security of citizens.
In his article titled “Why Bangladesh Cannot Accept All the Rohingya” published on Japan-based The Diplomat on Friday, Joy wrote Bangladesh government’s decision to not allow the Rohingya refugees complete freedom of movement outside the camps, and not granting them permanent residency are not “the result of a lack of compassion, rather, these policies are designed to protect the security of the Bangladeshi people.”
He further wrote that Bangladesh government believes that the ARSA (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army), the group responsible for killing 12 Myanmar security officers in an attack in August 25 last year that resulted in the brutal military crackdown on Rohingyas by Myanmar authorities, may make the refugee camps “a breeding ground for radicalization.”
The only son of the premier also wrote that the government’s decision to accomodate such a huge population is taking a heavy toll on Bangladesh’s economy.
“Over the years, Bangladesh has granted refugee status to about 30,000 Rohingya that have fled from Myanmar. But absorbing all 1.3 million Rohingya would constitute an instant population increase of nearly one percent,” Joy wrote. “That may sound small, but similar spikes have contributed to destabilization in other governments around the world. Further, nearly all of the Rohingya in Bangladesh are at the lowest end of the economic spectrum and thus would present an outsized burden on the nation’s social safety net.”
He also fears that the recent achievements of Bangladesh government in terms of development – the 7% growth in its GDP and its transition into a lower-middle-income country – would suffer a setback if all the Rohingyas were granted permanent residency. Joy added that since Bangladesh does not have a proper immigration system due to a lack of clear immigration laws, Rohingyas would have difficulties integrating into the population.
Joy also took the opportunity to expand on his mother-led administration’s humanitarian initiatives towards more than a million refugee seekers from the neighbouring country in the face of alleged persecution, writing: “Bangladesh has expanded and improved existing refugee camps for the Rohingya and is building new ones. The government is vaccinating children, registering Rohingya so they can receive assistance, and building living quarters and other infrastructure. These actions have been praised around the world, including by Pope Francis who visited Bangladesh in December,” he wrote.
“Bangladesh has managed to balance two conflicting demands: supplying humanitarian aid to the Rohingya while ensuring the stability and security in Bangladesh. The government will continue to do everything it can for the Rohingya and will work with Myanmar during their repatriation. But it must also protect the Bangladeshi people,” he concluded.