Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said Bangladesh could not afford to allow in any more Rohingyas fleeing persecution in the neighbouring Myanmar.
She said her country was already overpopulated and it was not its responsibility to help all those coming in from across the border.
Hasina made the observations in an interview with Al Jazeera English, a Qatar-based news channel, on Friday.
She said there were already around 300,000 Rohingyas living in refugee camps in her country.
Since sectarian clashes erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine state in June, Bangladesh has repeatedly turned down calls from different quarters to shelter Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds.
Here is the full text of the interview posted on Al Jazeera's website.
Hasina: It is up to their government, so you should put pressure or you should talk to the Myanmar government, not to Bangladesh. It is not the Bangladesh people's responsibility, right?
Al Jazeera: These are people in a desperate humanitarian situation and surely, there are basic principles, human principles, moral principles that compel you to help them.
Hasina: Bangladesh is already an overpopulated country, we cannot bear this burden. You should realise that. But now things are okay. Things are improving, so no refugees [are] coming.
Al Jazeera: But in the last two months, we have seen the pictures ourselves, Bangladeshi guards physically turning people back, returning them to danger...
Hasina: No, listen, listen. Bangladeshi guards, they behaved humanitarianly; they provided food for them, medicine for them, they provided money, and they just allowed them to return to their own home.
Al Jazeera: Not allow but they forced them to return ....
Hasina: No, it is not true. They did not force them, rather they persuaded them that, 'you should go back to your own country,' and they went back.
Al Jazeera: Prime minister, you know full well that they are being persecuted in their own country, they tried to run away and they were refused entry to your country.
Hasina: Well, why we should allow [them] to enter our country? We just pursue them, and we provided them all ... everything what they needed. Why you are asking this question? You should ask this question to the Myanmar government. It is not our responsibility, it is their responsibility.
Al Jazeera: And have you ever expressed concern to the government of Myanmar about how the Rohingya are treated in Arakan province?
Hasina: Of course, we do.
Al Jazeera: And what do they say?
Hasina: Well, they are creating congenial atmosphere, they are providing all the assistance, everything.
Al Jazeera: Do you actually believe that?
Hasina: Yes, why not?
Al Jazeera: Do you think the Rohingyas are treated fairly in Arakan province?
Hasina: Ah, I told you that it is their citizen! So, it is up to them.