Bangladesh is slated to ‘move’ its second group of Rohingya refugees to a remote, flood-prone island of Bansal Char in the Bay of Bengal from neighbouring Myanmar this month, officials report.
About 1,000 Rohingya refugees will be moved to the island, in the next few days. This comes despite strong objections from the human rights groups to not carry out further relocations.
The Rohingyas, as described by the United Nations, are the world’s most persecuted people to face heightened threat to life.
One of the officials privy to the matter was quoted by Aljazeera as saying, “they will be moved to Chittagong first and then to Bhasan Char, depending on the high tide.”
However, the Bangladesh government has claimed that the relocation was voluntary as a deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees Mohammed Shamsud Douza said “they will not be sent against their will”.
The Dhaka government contends that transferring the people will ease chronic overcrowding in the Cox’s Bazar camp, an area where thousands of Rohingyas fled from Myanmar in 2017 following a military-led crackdown executed with genocide intent.
However, the refugees and humanitarian workers have alleged that some of the Rohingyas were coerced into going to the island.
The UN has claimed it was not allowed to assess the technical and safety assessment of Bhasan Char and was not involved in the transfer of refugees there.
Earlier this month, more than 1,600 Rohingyas had sailed from Bangladesh’s southern port of Chittagong to the remote island, which emerged from the sea only 20 years ago.
Bangladesh foreign minister Abdul Momen had earlier said the UN should first assess and verify how conducive the environment in Myanmar’s Rakhine state was for repatriating refugees.
Several attempts to carry out repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar have failed after they have sounded fear of further violence upon returning.