DHAKA, Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees who have been residing in Saudi Arabia for decades will not be sent back to Bangladesh, a top Bangladeshi diplomat said on Wednesday following a recent visit to the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia didn’t say they would send Rohingya back to Bangladesh. And, there was no such issue between the two countries,” said Bangladeshi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, referring to his recent meeting with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir.

In replying to a question of what Bangladesh will do in response to the Saudi call to provide Bangladeshi passports to some Rohingya living in Saudi Arabia, the minister said that Bangladeshi will provide or renew passports of those who have legal documents.

The minister also referred to media reports that said that the Kingdom asked Bangladesh to provide passports to some 55,000 people who lost their documents or their documents expired.

Alam made the comments at a press conference in Dhaka after returning on Tuesday from his Saudi Arabia visit.

“We asked the Saudi government to provide details on the documents, including passport numbers and names as the people only have border entry numbers […] and then we will take the next course of action after scrutinizing their documents,” he said.

After forming a committee on the matter, Bangladesh also proposed the establishment of a joint committee with officials from both sides to look into the issue and examine the documents to take further steps, added Alam.

“We will do the job the way nationality is usually verified. Yes, there were some incidents and loopholes and irregular works in the passport providing procedures thus some people secured passports from the Cox’s Bazar and Chattogram region and went to the Kingdom. And, if we can identify anyone Bangladeshi we will provide them with Bangladeshi passports,” Alam said.

“We, both countries, are and will remain engaged on the issue,” he underlined.

According to a media report in January this year, Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Issa bin Youssef Al-Duhailan said in Dhaka that his government had already sent a list of some 55,000 people whose documents were either lost or expired.

According to media reports, Rohingya refugees traveled to Saudi Arabia over the decades on various occasions with Bangladeshi passports.

Earlier this year in Sept., Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen said, referring to the call of Saudi Arabia that “it’ll be helpful for the Kingdom if Bangladesh provides them with passports as the kingdom doesn’t keep stateless people.”

Momen had also said that Saudi Arabia would not send back the Rohingya living there for decades.

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