Bangladesh working to repatriate migrants in South-east Asian camps

Refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh are seen in a camp after their rescue by Aceh fisherman in Julok, East Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on May 20, 2015. - PHOTO: AFP
Refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh are seen in a camp after their rescue by Aceh fisherman in Julok, East Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia, on May 20, 2015. - PHOTO: AFP

DHAKA (AFP) - Hundreds of Bangladeshis languishing in camps in South-east Asia since a migrant crisis unfurled in the region will be brought home as soon as possible, an official said on Tuesday.

Bangladesh has been accused of turning a blind eye to its desperate economic migrants fleeing on boats, while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused them of being "mentally sick" and tarnishing the country's reputation.

But foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said consulate officials were working to locate and repatriate its migrants sheltering in camps as well as those still stranded at sea.

"We will bring back our citizens, stranded in the sea and abroad, as soon as possible," Haque told reporters in Dhaka.

"It may take around a month to complete the procedures," he said.

Bangladeshis and neighbouring Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya, who attempted perilous boat journeys organised by people-smugglers, have arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil in recent weeks.

Some 700 Bangladeshis, who left seeking jobs and a way out of grinding poverty, are thought to be in camps in Malaysia, according to local media.

An estimated 2,500 boat people are still believed to be stranded at sea after a Thai crackdown on trafficking threw well-worn regional routes into chaos with smugglers abandoning their human cargo in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal.

Ms Hasina last month accused the Bangladeshis of hurting the country's international image, adding that there was "sufficient work for them in Bangladesh (and) still they are leaving the country in such disastrous ways".