Bangladesh's decision to issue national passports to Rohingya living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will be harmful to the country's interest, opined foreign affairs experts.
Recently, Saudi Arabia, the largest employer of Bangladeshi workers - numbering 2.2 million, asked Bangladesh to issue passports to around 54,000 Rohingya living there.
Apparently under pressure from the Saudi government, Bangladesh has, in principle, agreed to issue national passports to Saudi Rohingyas on conditions.
"We should not issue Bangladeshi passports to Saudi Rohingyas under any circumstances. This will be harmful to the country's interest, as Bangladesh is in a critical negotiation with Myanmar on Rohingya citizenship issue," former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain pointed out.
"We should maintain good ties with the Saudi government through gearing up diplomatic efforts, not by issuing passports to those Rohingyas," he added.
But when asked by the FE correspondent, Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen denied any such pressure officially from the KSA.
"These are false propaganda. We are not threatened by the Saudi government. Some junior officials of the Saudi government may give a hint to others that there might be a negative impact on Bangladeshi workers, if we don't issue passports to the Rohingyas in Saudi Arabia."
"But officially we are not informed of any such condition."
Dr Momen noted that around 54,000 Rohingyas were given shelter in Saudi Arabia during the 1970's and early 80's, who have been living there since then.
"But they have no passport of any country. As the KSA has a policy not to allow stateless people in their country, they have requested us to issue Bangladeshi passports to the stateless Rohingyas, so that these people can live in the KSA."
Responding to a question, the foreign minister said in response to the proposal of the Saudi government, Dhaka is considering issuing national passports to the Saudi Rohingyas, who landed in the KSA with Bangladeshi passports.
Moreover, those, who can submit any document to prove that they were residents of Bangladesh before their arrival in Saudi Arabia, will be given Bangladeshi passports, the minister also said, while narrating the conditions.
"But the KSA told us that these Rohingyas will not be treated as citizens of Bangladesh even after being provided with Bangladeshi passports, and they will not be sent to Bangladesh."
"The Saudi government knows very well that the Rohingyas are citizens of Myanmar," he pointed out.
On the other hand, commenting on Bangladesh's decision, international migration expert C R Abrar said the country should not issue national passports to the Rohingyas.
The government should not buckle under any pressure. Rather, it should make diplomatic efforts to convince the Saudi government that such request is unlawful and violation of diplomatic norms, he opined.
Former foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque noted that similar request was made by the KSA in 2013. But during that time the government convinced them that issuing Bangladeshi passports to the Rohingyas was difficult, and then the process stalled.
The KSA, meanwhile, has also asked Bangladesh to take back 462 Rohingyas, who are detained in various Saudi jails.
"We have told them that we'll take back only those, who have Bangladeshi passports. I guess that 60 to 70 of the detainees have Bangladeshi passports." Dr Momen added.
Last week, Saudi government lifted restriction on entry of the local workers, stranded in Bangladesh, into the KSA. The validity of their expired work permit was also extended by 24 days.