Despite concern for the safety and security of Rohingya refugees raised by right groups, the Bangladeshi government has started to move the second group of refugees from camps in Cox’s Bazar to the remote island of Bhasan Char on December 28 and 29.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have urged the government to halt the relocation of Rohingya to the island, which is hours by boat from the mainland, flood-prone, vulnerable to frequent cyclones and could be completely submerged during a high tide.
Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, a senior police official and director of the Bhasan Char project, told Bangladesh’s The Daily Star newspaper that about 700 to 1,000 Rohingya refugees would be sent to the island.
The first group of 1,642 Rohingya refugees were relocated to the island earlier in December.
There are also concerns that the Rohingya, already displaced from Myanmar by ethnic cleansing, may have been bribed to relocate to the island, or that they have faced intimidation tactics to persuade them to do so.
International right agencies suspect that refugees have been listed without their consent and have called on Bangladesh to allow an independent inspection of the island.
Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s south Asia campaigner, said concerns about relocation to Bhashan Char stemmed from a “lack of understanding about the human rights safeguards there, including access to healthcare and the right to freedom of movement between the island and Cox’s Bazar”.
Earlier this month, HRW said in a statement that there was limited information on the actual conditions on the island, “and there are some allegations that the authorities may have offered misleading information and incentives to move there”.
However, the Bangladeshi government has denied there are any reasons to be concerned.
Mostafizur Rahman, Bangladesh’s permanent representative and ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, said Rohingyas were relocated voluntarily, and that the government has taken measures to improve their quality of life, livelihood and security.
Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy government official in charge of refugees, said that a 12km-long embankment had been built to protect the island from floods, along with housing for 100,000 people. Relocation was voluntary, he said.
“No one is forced to go there,” he said, adding that people can live a better life there with greater access to healthcare and education. (Source: The Guardian)