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Bangladesh fears lingering Rohingya crisis may trigger radicalism

File photo: A general view of a Rohingya refugees' makeshift camp in Kutubpalang, Cox Bazar district, Bangladesh. Photograph:( Agencia EFE )

Agencia EFE Dhaka, Bangladesh Feb 11, 2019, 01.18 PM (IST)

The foreign minister of Bangladesh on Sunday warned that a prolonged Rohingya crisis encouraged the formation of pockets of radicalism that could destabilize the entire South Asian region.

AK Abdul Momen, speaking at a seminar on "Bangladesh and Human Rights" in Dhaka, said Rohingya refugees in the country needed to be sent home at the earliest, with safety and security.

"My fear is that, if this (Rohingya) problem lingers for a longer time, it may encourage creating pockets of radicalism and that may create problems of uncertainty and instability not only for Myanmar and Bangladesh but for the entire region," Momen said.

"Therefore, Rohingya must go back to their homes, earliest the better. The global leadership must come forward to resolve this crisis at its root, not in Bangladesh," he said.

Momen, a former Bangladesh permanent representative in the United Nations, who became the foreign minister after a new government in took charge in January, said if Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had not sheltered the Rohingyas "it would end up in the gravest and worst genocide of the century since World War II."

"Our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, by allowing (in) the persecuted people of Rakhine province of Myanmar, has saved the face of global leaders from ignominy and disgrace," he said.

Rohingyas are ethnic Muslim minority members concentrated in Rakhine State, and whom the Myanmar government refuses to recognize as citizens and allow basic rights.

More than 738,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Cox's Bazar since the beginning of the crisis on August 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN described as an attempt at "ethnic cleansing".

The majority of Rohingyas - more than 620,000 people - live in just one area, Kutupalong, the largest refugee settlement anywhere in the world today.

"They need to be repatriated with safety and security at the earliest. Their exodus was created by Myanmar and it is their responsibility to solve it," said the minister.

The first phase of Rohingyas' voluntary repatriation to Myanmar was due to begin in November last year, as per an agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23, 2017. 

Story highlights

More than 738,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Cox's Bazar since the beginning of the crisis on August 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN described as an attempt at 'ethnic cleansing'.