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Bangladesh turned global spotlight on Rohingya crisis

7 October 2017, 9:36:00

The Rohingya crisis has become a concern for the international community because of Bangladesh’s efforts, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

She made the remarks at a reception for her return from the United Nations General Assembly in New York at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Saturday.

In addition to sheltering half a million Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar, Bangladesh has shown its humanity by raising awareness of the situation before the UNGA, Hasina said.

The prime minister said Bangladesh would provide food and shelter for the Rohingyas.

“If need be, we will eat a full meal once a day and share the other with them,” she said.

Road Transport Minister and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader also spoke at the reception and welcomed the prime minister with a speech.

Quader described Hasina as the ‘lighthouse of distressed humanity’ and the ‘mother of humanity’ for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

“You have made us look brighter, you have made us feel prouder, you have made us stand taller,” he said.

Hasina told the event held at the airport's VVIP lounge, that the decision to provide shelter to the Muslim-majority Rohingyas came as she considered it as a 'national duty'. according to bdnews24.

More than half a million Rohingyas have fled across the border to Bangladesh after a counter-insurgency offensive by Myanmar's army in the wake of militant attacks on security forces in late August.

The UN has described Myanmar's strategy as "ethnic cleansing".

Bangladesh was already home to 400,000 Rohingya refugees before insurgents attacked 30 police outposts and an army base in the western Rakhine state on Aug 25.

During the first few days of the latest influx, Bangladesh kept its border closed, but later decided to open it up for Rohingyas.

"We were a hesitant in the beginning, but when reports of persecutions came in, we let them in. Incidents like this happen in many places around the world and many countries keep their borders sealed,” Hasina said.

Hasina said her sister Rehana also played a part. "Rehana said Bangladesh is already feeding 160 million people and we can still afford another 500,000 to 700,000? I went there (Cox's Bazar) and instructed everyone that we need to take measures to provide shelter and food for these people."

Before leaving for New York to attend the annual UN meet, Hasina visited the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar on Sep 14. Rehana was also with her.

“We couldn't have drawn the international community's attention without providing them shelter.”

Bangladesh identifies the Rohingyas, who have fled their homeland, as 'forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens' and has maintained from the very beginning that Myanmar has to take back them.

Most of the Rohingyas have poured into the country by crossing the border with the southeastern Cox's Bazar district.

Hasina said on Saturday that until their return to their homeland, the Rohingyas will be relocated to the Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of the southeastern district of Noakhali.

"They cannot continue living this way any longer. Before leaving (for the US), I approved funds for the navy to build cyclone shelters in Bhashan Char."

The prime minister said the government was successful in persuading the international community to create pressure on Myanmar to take back its citizens.

She said Myanmar's statement to take back refugees and the Dhaka visit of minister to Suu Kyi's office is a big step toward solving the crisis.

Hasina thanked the security and armed forces for not giving in to provocations by Myanmar forces amid the Rohingya crisis.

Following the Aug 25 incident, Myanmar helicopters and drones violated airspace repeatedly. The country's security forces also opened fire on Rohingyas, who gathered at the border to cross into Bangladesh.

“It was as if the neighbouring country would wage war against us,” Hasina said without mentioning Myanmar.

"The army, border guards and police were put on the alert, but I asked them not to act on any provocation without my order," said the Bangladesh prime minister.

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