- A seven-member Bangladesh delegation is set to fly to Saudi Arabia next week
- Many Rohingyas who left for Saudi Arabia have expired Bangladeshi passports.
- Decision to not issue passports to Rohingyas staying in Saudi Arabia is right.
- Some of them were given passports under a special arrangement in the OIC agreement
Bangladesh will not give passports to Rohingyas staying in Saudi Arabia, which the middle-east country sought, as the home ministry has decided to issue passports to individuals who are National Identity Card (NID) holders or have a valid birth certificate with proof of family and permanent address in the country.
However, if special passports are needed to send the Rohingyas, staying in Saudi Arabia for a long time, to Myanmar, Bangladesh is willing to help in that case.
A seven-member delegation led by Abdullah Al Masud Chowdhury, secretary of the Security Service Division of the home ministry, is set to fly to Saudi Arabia next week to discuss the matter, the secretary told The Business Standard.
In November last year, Saudi Arabia's Deputy Interior Minister Nasser bin Abdul Aziz Al Dawood came to Dhaka and in a meeting with Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, he floated the matter of issuing passports to Rohingyas, who the country says went there from Bangladesh.
Saudi Arabia claims there are about 3,00,000 Rohingya people in their country, who have left Bangladesh and many of them also have expired Bangladeshi passports. Saudi Arabia requires the issuance or renewal of passports to ensure the legal stay of those people.
Analysts say the decision to not issue passports to the Rohingyas staying in Saudi Arabia is right.
However, they recommend the issue to be resolved with the involvement of the Saudi government as the country is the biggest labour market for Bangladesh with about 2.8 million Bangladeshi workers currently working in the country.
The former ambassador of Bangladesh in Saudi Arabia, Golam Masih, told TBS that the Rohingyas, who Saudi Arabia says went from Bangladesh with Bangladeshi passports, are not actually Bangladeshis. They were given passports under special arrangement in the OIC agreement.
"Later they became stateless. According to international law, no state can hold stateless people. So far, Saudi Arabia has not given much importance to the matter. However, they are now stressing on renewing passports for people living in the country," he said, adding that the government's policy to prove the country's citizenship before issuing passports is the right move.
Why Saudi Arabia wants passports of Rohingyas from Bangladesh:
Sources say, between 1976 and 1979, some 5 lakh Rohingyas were forced to leave Myanmar due to adverse conditions. At that time, the OIC mediated and arranged asylum for these Rohingyas in Saudi Arabia. But OIC and Saudi Arabia requested Bangladesh and Pakistan to give passports to Rohingyas. Bangladesh issues passports to about two and a half lakh Rohingyas.
Pakistan also issues passports for a similar number of Rohingyas. In Pakistani passports, they are referred to as BR (Burmese Rohingya) – as citizens of Myanmar in Pakistani passports. Pakistan also renews passports that way. As a result, they have problems with their identity. But it was not done in the passports Bangladesh issued, which has caused the current problem.
Saudi Arabia first discussed the issue of renewing or issuing the passports of these Rohingyas in 2010. Since 2019, Saudi Arabia has been sort of pressing for the issue.
Before the pandemic, Saudi Arabia issued papers to 54,000 Rohingyas and sought passports for them. Later, the country issued papers to 24,000 Rohingyas and handed those to Bangladesh
Sources say, the Rohingyas who went to Saudi Arabia with passports from Bangladesh, were later given a kind of ID card by the Saudi government that mention them as Rohingya people of Myanmar. That is why Bangladesh does not see the rationale of giving passports to those people.
According to sources, it has been decided to give passports to those Bangladeshis who do not have passports or passports that require renewal. But whoever applies for passport or renewal, must prove himself or herself as Bangladeshi.
The delegation led by the secretary of the Security Service Division will discuss this matter and if necessary, the two countries will jointly carry out verification work.
Saudi Arabia is Bangladesh's largest source of remittance income as a single country. According to the data of Bangladesh Bank, $451 million remittances came from this country in the fiscal year 2021-22. In the eight months of the current fiscal year (July to February), Bangladeshi expatriates sent $248 million in remittances from Saudi Arabia.