Bangladesh has rejected the World Bank's (WB) proposal to integrate Myanmar's Rohingya people into the host community.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen Monday said Dhaka defines Rohingyas as forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens, not refugees.
"Bangladesh prioritises their repatriation. They will go back," the minister told journalists in Dhaka.
The WB reviews its refugee policy framework every three years before mobilising funds under the International Development Assistance window. The global lender recently sought opinions of 16 refugee hosting countries, including Bangladesh, on its latest policy review.
The WB letter to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) spoke of the freedom of movement, birth certificate, privileges of education and job for the Rohingyas.
"We have categorically refused the WB proposal of integrating Rohingyas since it does not reflect on our perception. We believe repatriation is the only way for Rohingyas to have a better future. We have just sheltered them for the time being," said Abdul Momen.
More than 1 million Rohingyas, who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017, now live in Bangladesh. Over the years, repatriation witnessed almost no progress as Rohingyas refused to return, claiming that conditions in Rakhine were still unsafe and they had no guarantee of citizenship in Myanmar.
Momen said Myanmar told Bangladesh several times that Naypyidaw would take back their citizens. But the neighbouring country did not keep the promise.
The foreign minister said, "The WB report talks about refugees, but the Rohingyas in Bangladesh do not fall in the category since Dhaka is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees."
"After turning down the proposal, there has been an understanding with them [World Bank] in progress. We will strike a deal with the WB only if it drops the prospects we dislike," said the minister.
The foreign minister also thinks there will be an additional pressure on Bangladesh as it has not agreed to the proposal. "We are sure they [World Bank] will put pressure on us. But the reality is they do not pay us for the burden. Their funds directly go to the international NGOs and the UNHCR. We even do not know how the organisations spend money for the Rohingyas."
Asked if there was any progress on Rohingya repatriation, the foreign minister said no progress had been made.