Bangladesh is now sheltering more than a million Myanmar refugees in camps, some 700,000 of whom have poured over the border in the past 18 months having fled a military-led crackdown in Rakhine state where thousands were killed, women were raped and villages razed.
Speaking to the UN Security Council on Thursday, Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said, “I regret to inform the council that Bangladesh would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar.”
Most of the Rohingya arrived in Bangladesh between August and December 2017 in the midst of the brutal campaign of violence the UN has described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.
However, last year about 16,000 Rohingya crossed the border to Bangladesh, fleeing ongoing abuses. A UN envoy stated last year there was still an “ongoing genocide” in Rakhine.
Nonetheless, this year arrivals have slowed, with organisations reporting some weeks with no refugees crossing the border.
Bangladesh was lauded for its willingness to keep its borders open and welcome the hundreds of thousands of refugees with open arms.
However Haque said the situation in Cox’s Bazar – where the millions of mainly Rohingya refugees are living in what has become the world’s largest refugee camp – was now untenable and had gone from “bad to worse”.
“Is Bangladesh paying the price for being responsive and responsible in showing empathy to a persecuted minority population of a neighbouring country?” Guardian quoted Haque as saying.
Haque was joined in his condemnation of Myanmar’s failure to take steps towards repatriation of Rohingya by envoys from western governments including the UK and the US. “We are very disappointed that there hasn’t been more progress on getting the refugees back,” said British ambassador Karen Pierce.