For Riyadh, the Rohingya refugees on the Saudi soil are still ‘undesirables,’ a burden to be dumped on Bangladesh. For the Rohingya diaspora around the world, nowhere is welcome. And in Saudi Arabia, where 54,000 Rohingya have taken refuge, concerns are rife that their welcome there may have come to end after Riyadh threatened Bangladesh with a migration ban, unless Dhaka gave Bangladeshi passports to the persecuted minority.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen confirmed this a month ago in a press conference. Bangladesh balked at the idea, but suggested it may be able to provide passports to those who previously held them. Since 2017, Bangladesh has given refuge to over a million Rohingya fleeing ethnic cleansing and persecution from neighbouring Myanmar.
Burmese authorities have consistently refused to give Rohingya passports, given they do not recognize them as citizens.
Bangladesh relies on nearly $15 billion annually in remittances from its migrant workers abroad, 60 percent of which comes from Saudi Arabia, putting it in a bind.
Local media also reported that foreign ministry officials said that Riyadh threatened to put limits on migration workers from Bangladesh if it fails to accept Saudi Arabia’s request, which holds devastating implications for Bangladesh’s economy.
But while the possibility of being granted passports is seemingly positive on the surface, it has not been welcomed as good news by Rohingya living in Saudi Arabia. Ahmed Khatun, a Rohingya who has lived in Jeddah his entire life identifies with Saudi Arabia more than his homeland.
“We’ve been living in fear of being deported for years. So whenever we’re mentioned in media here our fear grows.”
Khatun details how some of his family relatives were locked up for years in detention centers without charges being pressed for being ‘illegal migrants’.