Bangladesh to move more Rohingya Muslims to remote island, despite outcry

Published February 14, 2021
Bangladesh Navy personnel help a disabled Rohingya refugee child to get off from a navy vessel as they arrive at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. — Reuters
Bangladesh Navy personnel help a disabled Rohingya refugee child to get off from a navy vessel as they arrive at the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, December 29, 2020. — Reuters

Bangladesh is moving 3,000-4,000 more Rohingya Muslim refugees to a remote Bay of Bengal island over the next two days, two officials said on Sunday, despite concerns about the risk of storms and floods lashing the site.

Dhaka has relocated around 7,000 to Bhasan Char island since early December from border camps in neighbouring Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where more than a million refugees live in ramshackle huts perched on razed hillsides.

The Rohingya refugees will be moved to Bhasan Char by ships on Monday and Tuesday, Navy Commodore Rashed Sattar said from the island.

Bangladesh says the relocation is voluntary, but some of a first group to be moved spoke of being coerced.

The government has dismissed safety concerns over the island, citing the building of flood defences as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centres.

It also says overcrowding in refugee camps fuels crime.

Once they arrive on Bhasan Char, the Rohingya, a minority group who fled violence, are not allowed to leave the island, which is a several hours’ journey away from the southern port of Chittagong.

Bangladesh has drawn criticism for a reluctance to consult with the United Nations refugee agency and other aid bodies over the transfers.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the agency has not been allowed to evaluate the safety and sustainability of life on the island.

“The process of moving the Rohingya will continue [...] they are going there happily for [a] better life,” Mohammad Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said by phone from Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh.

“Our main priority is repatriating them to their homeland in a dignified and sustainable way,” he said.

Bangladesh has called on Myanmar to move forward the stalled process of voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees, as international pressure mounts on the military leaders following a coup, which reduces the refugees’ hopes of returning home.

“I don’t see any future for us,” said a 42-year-old refugee, who chose to move to the island. “The little hope we had of going back to our homeland was broken after the coup.”

Opinion

Editorial

The whole truth
28 Sep, 2022

The whole truth

THE war on truth has never been more relentless than it is today. Authoritarianism is on the rise and purveyors of...
Real-world trolls
Updated 28 Sep, 2022

Real-world trolls

It's reprehensible how PTI supporters now seem convinced that politicians from opposing camps aren't entitled to basic dignity.
Islamabad wildlife
28 Sep, 2022

Islamabad wildlife

PRESERVING biodiversity is low on the list of priorities of both state and society. However, successful attempts at...
Noon leaks
Updated 27 Sep, 2022

Noon leaks

PMO audio leaks are a national security emergency that ought to be investigated at the highest level.
Cipher probe offer
27 Sep, 2022

Cipher probe offer

CONSIDERING the toxic political polarisation in the country, former prime minister Imran Khan’s suggestion that ...
Delaying Doha plans
27 Sep, 2022

Delaying Doha plans

WHEN Doha announced its intention to spend $3bn in different commercial and investment sectors of Pakistan around a...