We can’t accept any more Rohingya refugees, says senior minister

Some of the 269 Rohingya on board a boat intercepted by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency off Langkawi yesterday. (MMEA pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The government said today it will not allow Rohingya refugees, especially those who fled from Cox Bazar, to remain in the country.

Cox Bazar is a refugee settlement in the southeast coast of Bangladesh.

In questioning some of the tactics used by the refugees, senior minister for security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said it “made it difficult” for Malaysian authorities.

Ismail said the foreign ministry had been asked to discuss with Bangladesh the possibility of deporting the refugees to either Cox Bazar or Bhasan Char Island in the Gulf of Bengal.

He also said the foreign ministry would discuss with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to have them sent to a third country.

He said several countries had questioned Malaysia’s management of the Rohingya refugees, with some accusing Putrajaya of being inhumane.

So, he said, the government will ask the foreign ministry to discuss with these countries to take in the Rohingya refugees instead.

Saying many countries were signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, he asked: “Why do they leave it to us? They should welcome the Rohingya refugees.

“We are firm in this matter. We can’t welcome any more Rohingya refugees and we would feel better if the third countries, who are signatories to the convention, accept these refugees from Malaysia,” he said at his daily press conference.

He said if these counties were to welcome the Rohingya, many issues would be resolved.

Ismail also said the Rohingya refugees should not assume they would be welcomed should they enter the country after this.

“We will deport them to Cox Bazar or another settlement set up by the Bangladesh government,” he said.

Ismail said the tactics employed by the refugees who entered the country put authorities in a tight spot.

Some, he said, would make holes in their boat so it would fill with water or enter the country’s waters with a damaged boat. There were also those who would jump off their boat once they were in the country’s waters.

This, he said, left the authorities with little choice. “We either leave them to die at sea or save them on humanitarian grounds.

“Don’t tell me we want to see children and the elderly drown in the middle of the ocean in front of us without us doing anything,” he said.

Fake or not? Check our quick fake news buster here.