Regardless of outcry from Reuters, Bangladesh desires to convey extra Rohingya Muslims to a distant island


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bangladeshi Navy personnel help a disabled Rohingya refugee child disembark from a naval ship when it arrives on Bhasan Char Island in Noakhali district

From Ruma Paul

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh will bring 3,000 to 4,000 more Rohingya Muslim refugees to a remote island in Bengal Bay in the next two days, two officials said on Sunday, despite concerns about the risk of storms and floods.

Dhaka has moved around 7,000 people to the island of Bhasan Char since the beginning of December from border camps in neighboring Buddhist majority Myanmar, where more than a million refugees live in dilapidated huts on destroyed hills.

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

Bangladesh says the relocation is voluntary, but some of the first groups to be moved spoke of coercion.

The government has denied safety concerns about the island, citing the construction of flood defenses and housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers.

It is also said that overcrowding in refugee camps fuels crime.

Once they arrive on Bhasan Char, the Rohingya, a minority who have fled violence, are no longer allowed to leave the island, which is several hours’ drive from the southern port of Chittagong.

Bangladesh has expressed criticism of reluctance to consult the United Nations Refugee Agency and other aid agencies regarding renditions.

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

“The Rohingya relocation process continues … they go happily there to have a better life,” said Mohammad Shamsud Douza, the Bangladeshi deputy government official in charge of refugees, on the phone from Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh.

“Our main priority is dignified and sustainable repatriation,” he said.

Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to press ahead with the stalled process of voluntary return of Rohingya refugees as international pressure on military leaders mounts following a coup that lowers refugees’ hopes of returning home.

“I don’t see a future for us,” said the 42-year-old refugee who decided to move the island. “The small hope of returning to our homeland was broken after the coup.”

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