Rohingya refugees agree move to Bangladesh island: official

Published October 20, 2019
Rohingya people wait for relief supplies near a refugee camp in Kutupalong in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on September 8, 2017. — AFP/File
Rohingya people wait for relief supplies near a refugee camp in Kutupalong in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on September 8, 2017. — AFP/File

Thousands of Rohingya living in Bangladesh refugee camps have agreed to move to an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said on Sunday, despite fears the site is prone to flooding.

Dhaka has long wanted to move 100,000 refugees to the muddy silt islet, saying it would take pressure off the overcrowded border camps where almost a million Rohingya live.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar in August 2017 in the face of a military crackdown, joining 200,000 refugees already in makeshift tent settlements at Cox's Bazar.

Bangladesh's refugee commissioner, Mahbub Alam, said officials overseeing the relocation would be posted to Bhashan Char island in the next few days.

“Approximately 6,000-7,000 refugees have already expressed their willingness to be relocated to Bhashan Char,” Alam told AFP from Cox's Bazar, adding that “the number is rising”.

He did not say when the refugees would be moved, but a senior Navy officer involved in building facilities on the island said it could start by December, with some 500 refugees sent daily.

Bangladesh had been planning since last year to relocate Rohingya to the desolate flood-prone site, which is an hour by boat from the mainland.

Rights groups have warned the island, which emerged from the sea only about two decades ago, might not be able to withstand violent storms during the annual monsoon season.

In the past half a century, powerful cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in the Meghna river estuary where the island is located.

Rohingya leaders would be taken to Bhashan Char to view the facilities and living conditions, Alam said.

Safety facilities built on the island include a nine-feet (three-metre) high embankment along its perimeter to keep out tidal surges during cyclones, and a warehouse to store months-worth of rations, he added.

Rohingya father-of-four Nur Hossain, 50, said he and his family agreed to relocate to Bhashan Char after they were shown video footage of the shelters.

“I have agreed to go. The camp here (at Leda) is very overcrowded. There are food and housing problems,” the 50-year-old told AFP.

There was no immediate comment from the UN, although Bangladeshi officials said they expect a delegation would visit the island in the next few weeks.

Opinion

Editorial

Miftah’s misery
06 Jul, 2022

Miftah’s misery

IT cannot be easy to be finance minister in times like these, with friend and foe alike gunning for you over...
Phone tapping
06 Jul, 2022

Phone tapping

IT is the season of audio leaks. No sooner does one ‘incriminating’ clip lose its shock value than another...
Transgender job quota
06 Jul, 2022

Transgender job quota

IN a society where transgender persons often face violence and abuse, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to reserve a...
Warming ties
05 Jul, 2022

Warming ties

BILATERAL ties with the US are clearly on the mend after an extensive rough patch under the PTI government. While ...
LNG emergency
Updated 05 Jul, 2022

LNG emergency

The problem is that Pakistan does not have sufficient cash at the moment to buy even a single LNG cargo at present prices.
The invisible half
05 Jul, 2022

The invisible half

WHAT better illustrates the Afghan Taliban’s misogynistic and mediaeval worldview than the fact that not a single...