Bangladesh sends second group of Rohingya to isolated island - GulfToday

Bangladesh sends second group of Rohingya to isolated island


Bangladesh navy personnel check Rohingya before they board a ship to move to Bhasan Char island in Chattogram. Reuters

Gulf Today Report

Officials in Bangladesh sent a second group of Rohingya refugees to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal on Monday, despite opposition from rights groups worried about the new site’s vulnerability to floods.

More than 30 buses carrying about 1,500 refugees left their camps in Cox’s Bazar district on the way to the island, a government official involved with the process said.

The United Nations says it has not been involved in the relocation but urged the government to ensure no refugee is forced to move to Bhasan Char island, which only emerged from the sea 20 years ago.

Bangladesh-Rohingyas-1Rohingya prepare to board a ship as they move to Bhasan Char island. Reuters

“We are ready to receive the new arrivals,” Navy Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury said from the island of the 1,804 Rohingya being moved in seven ships.

The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees left Cox’s Bazar voluntarily under government management.

Authorities say the refugees were selected for relocation based on their willingness, and that no pressure was applied on them. But several human rights and activist groups say some refugees have been forced to go to the island, located 21 miles (34 kilometers) from the mainland.

Storms regularly hit the Bangladesh coast. In 1991, nearly 143,000 people were killed when a cyclone whipped up a 4.5-metre (15-foot) tidal surge.

Bangladesh-Rohingyas-2Bangladesh navy personnel check Rohingya before they board a ship. Reuters

The government has built a 12-km (7.5 mile) embankment to protect the island along with housing for 100,000 people. It dismisses the risks.

“The island is completely safe,” Foreign Minister Abdul Momen told Reuters.


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The government also says the relocation is voluntary but some refugees from the first group have spoken about being coerced to go.

Bangladesh-Rohingyas-3Rohingya prepare to board a ship as they move to Bhasan Char island near Chattogram. Reuters

The human rights group Amnesty International also expressed concern.

“(A) lack of transparency in the consultation process with refugees, and allegations from within the community about cash incentives being offered to Rohingya families to relocate to Bhashan Char as well as use of intimidation tactics are making the relocation process questionable,” the group said.

Momen rejected such doubts.

“The Rohingya people who have shifted there are very happy with the arrangement. Some evil groups are spreading negative propaganda,” he said.

Two Rohingya men on board one of the ships heading to the island from the port of Chittagong told Reuters they were moving to their new home voluntarily. One said he was joining relatives already there while the other was moving with his wife and six children.

“There is so much suffering and conflict in the camp,” said one of the men. “We are going there in the hope of a better life.”

Reuters is withholding their names given the controversy around the move among the community, with many keen to stay on the mainland

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