DHAKA - Bangladesh said Thursday it has barred official marriages between its nationals and Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya refugees, whom it claims are attempting to wed to gain citizenship.
Law minister Syed Anisul Haque said he has ordered marriage registrars not to officiate any unions between Bangladeshi nationals and Rohingyas and also between Rohingyas themselves, thousands of whom have fled to Bangladesh.
He said Rohingyas try to use the resulting wedding certificate to gain Bangladeshi passports and other documents, while Rohingyas who marry Bangladeshis could automatically qualify for citizenship.
"By registering their marriage in Bangladesh they try to prove that they're Bangladeshi citizens," he told AFP.
"We've told the marriage registers not to list any marriage of Rohingyas and also between a Rohingya and a Bangladeshi citizen in Bangladesh."
Law ministry spokesman Abdullah Al Shahin said marriage registrars have been warned of punitive action if they officiate any such marriages.
There are around 300,000 Rohingyas living in Bangladesh's southern coastal districts bordering Myanmar who have fled alleged persecution in the Buddhist-majority nation since the 1990s.
Sectarian clashes flared up two years ago in Myanmar's western Rakhine state, with fighting that has displaced about 140,000 people, mainly stateless Rohingya Muslims.
Bangladesh recognises only around 28,000 of the refugees in its country, who are entitled to food, basic housing and other aid provided by the United Nations.
The rest of the Rohingyas in Bangladesh live in slums set up in cleared forests and on beaches.
Bangladesh border guards regularly turn back Rohingyas caught trying to cross the Myanmar border.
Rights groups and charities have criticised Bangladesh's treatment of Rohingyas, claiming they lack basic healthcare and many are on the verge of starvation.