Rohingya exodus from their homeland, making their way to Bangladesh
Rohingya exodus from their homeland, making their way to Bangladesh Reuters

Saudi Arabia has taken a hard line regarding 55,000 Rohingyas living in the kingdom. They say these Rohingyas must be provided with Bangladeshi passports or face deportation. Since the situation has worsened, The Bangladesh government is considering passports for a section of the Rohingyas as a solution for the time being. A full list of those Rohingyas will be sought from the Saudi authorities, sources said.

An inter-ministerial committee has been formed recently to tackle the problem. It held the third meeting last week with foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen in the chair. The meeting discussed the ways on how to resolve the deteriorating situation. Representative from different ministries including foreign, home, and expatriate welfare and oversees, joined the meeting.

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told Prothom Alo, a number of recommendations were made at the meeting, including engaging with the Saudi government, to solve the issue of 55,000 Rohingyas. Bangladesh wants the problem be solved and it attaching priority to the matter. A full list will be asked since Saudi government has not provided it yet. Once the list is received, it will be easier to address the problem.

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Several government officials involved with the process told this correspondent last week, Saudi authorities remain rigid on the deportation of 55,000 Rohingyas. That is why Bangladesh is considering bringing back a small number of Rohingyas, giving them Bangladeshi passports to ease the situations for now. At the last meeting attended by senior representatives of the government, many spoke in favour of taking a decision through talks. The meeting said the crisis be solved with involvement of the Saudi authorities. The kingdom should be informed that Bangladesh is interested in resolving the problem.

Talks began 12 year ago.

Back in 2007-08 and 2009-10, Saudi Arabia has started talks about deporting Rohingyas with Bangladeshi passports. But they said nothing officially then.

Former Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir placed the issue when his Bangladeshi counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali visited Riyadh in January, 2016. At that time, Bangladesh said Aung San Suu Kyi might win Myanmar’s upcoming election and change in government might solve Rohingya crisis.

More Rohingyas near Makkah

In the second half of 2019, Saudi Arabia sent a letter to Bangladesh asking it to take back 55,000 Rohingyas. Though the letter did not contain details on their identity but it said they arrived in the kingdom using Bangladeshi passports. A senior Bangladesh official told this correspondent, Saudi Arabia has been asking to take back the 55,000 Rohingyas, most of them live in the areas surrounding Makkah. The kingdom has already given 350,000 Rohingyas iqama (work permit) and the majority of them reside in and around Makkah city. A portion of these Rohingyas, whom the Saudis want to deport, also have work permits as the majority went there on Bangladeshi passports. Some also renewed passports from the Bangladesh missions in the kingdom.

Officials at the foreign ministry said, last September Saudi authorities placed the issue of deporting 55,000 Rohingyas during talks with Bangladesh's ambassador Mohammad Javed Patwary. They had taken a rigid stance.

However, executive director of the think-tank Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), CR Abrar, thinks the pressure by Saudi Arabia on Bangladesh is totally unfair. He told Prothom Alo, the Saudi authorities may add the Rohingya deportation issue with the talking about migrant workers. If they do, it will be an injustice. Bangladesh government must take a clear and strong stance.

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