Dhaka: Bangladesh is preventing hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from seeking refuge after ethnic violence in Myanmar forced them to flee, with the foreign minister stating that the country was already "overburdened" by years of influx from the neighbouring state.
Bangladesh said it was "saddened" by casualties in the sectarian violence in neighbouring Myanmar where five days of strife between Buddhists and Muslims has claimed 25 lives, but expressed inability in accepting more refugees.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said: "Our population is very dense and we are already overburdened with the huge number of documented and undocumented Myanmar refugees for the past 20 years".
"This time we are not in a position to host additional refugees from anywhere," she told an unscheduled press briefing at her office.
Moni`s comment came hours after the foreign office issued a statement saying Bangladesh was "saddened" by the sectarian violence but wanted to ensure that developments in Myanmar`s Rakhine state did not have any "trans-boundary spill-over".
Bangladesh authorities have ordered intensified frontier vigil by its paramilitary frontier troops and coastguards to prevent any Rohingya influx from the troubled Myanmar region.
It, however, appreciated steps taken by Myanmar in containing the unrest and reaffirmed Dhaka`s "commitment to stand by the government and people of Myanmar in their efforts to restore peace and stability in Rakhine".
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had urged Bangladesh to accept the Myanmarese nationals who are seeking refuge in the country but the foreign office is yet to respond to such request.
The foreign office`s comments came a day after Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Coastguard pushed back 11 boats carrying some 500 Myanmar nationals as they tried to enter Bangladesh through the Naf River.
"We are very concerned about what`s happening at the border; we are aware that the boats are arriving with refugees and being sent back," the UNHCR country representative Craig Sanders told The Daily Star.
But, state minister for home Shamsul Haque Tuku said that some Rohingyas who had entered Bangladesh to flee the current violence were being treated at a state-run facility despite an intensified vigil.
"The injured Rohingyas are getting treatment," he said. Police in Cox`s Bazar earlier said that three Rohingyas were being treated at a hospital under their custody since Saturday.