Bangladesh waver over Rohingya island relocation after UN doubts


The planned relocation of thousands of Rohingya living in overcrowded refugee camps to a remote island became “uncertain” after Bangladeshi authorities failed to gain support from UN agencies, officials said Sunday, November 03.

Dhaka wanted to begin its long-held plan this month to move 100,000 people to the mud-silt island of Bhashan Char, as frustration grows with the presence of the squalid tent settlements in its southeastern border towns.

But the plan is now in doubt as the UN has not supported the relocation so far, Bangladesh disaster management and relief minister Enamur Rahman told AFP.

Bangladesh has said thousands of Rohingya families have volunteered to relocate, with some 3,500 of the Muslim minority due to be moved between mid-November to February during calm seas.

“This has become uncertain,” Rahman said of the relocation to the island, which takes around three hours to reach by boat.”They (UN agencies) still haven’t agreed to the relocation plan.”

Aid agencies including the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Program (WFP), which held meetings with the government, told him the island was “isolated” and “flood-prone”.

The agencies set out a list of conditions that had to be met, including a regular shipping service between the islet in the Bay of Bengal and the mainland, Rahman added.

The organisations provide humanitarian aid to the nearly one million Rohingya in the vast camps, including 740,000 who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in August 2017.

UNHCR spokesman Louise Donovan told AFP Sunday his agency offered “to engage constructively” with Bangladesh but said the relocation had to be “voluntary”.

Global activist group Fortify Rights said last month it interviewed 14 Rohingya at three camps, including some who appeared on lists of refugees allegedly willing to go, and found none had been consulted “and all opposed it”.

Other groups have also expressed misgivings about moving people to the island, which is regularly hit by devastating cyclones. (Source: CNA)