Bangladeshi government is moving the second batch of Rohingya refugees from the camps in the mainland to the remote island of Bhasan Char this month, despite calls by rights groups to put on hold any further relocation before an independent assessment of the viability and safety of the relocation area are carried out.
After more than 1,600 were relocated earlier this month, another 1,000 Rohingya refugees will be moved to the island in the next few days, officials with the direct knowledge of the matter said.
“They will be moved to Chittagong first and then to Bhasan Char, depending on the high tide,” one of the officials said. The officials declined to be named as the issue had not been made public.
Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said the relocation was voluntary. “They will not be sent against their will.”
The United Nations has said it has not been allowed to carry out a technical and safety assessment of Bhasan Char, a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, and was not involved in the transfer of refugees there.
Bangladesh says it is transferring only people who are willing to go and the move will ease chronic overcrowding in camps that are home to more than 1 million Rohingya.
But refugees and humanitarian workers say some of the Rohingya have been coerced into going to the island, which emerged from the sea only 20 years ago.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abdul Momen told Reuters earlier this month the United Nations should first assess and verify how conducive the environment in Myanmar’s Rakhine state was for repatriating the refugees, before carrying out an assessment of Bhasan Char.
Several attempts to kick-start repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar have failed after refugees said they were too fearful of further violence to return. (Source: Bangkok Post)