Bangladeshi Rohingya refugees moved to a remote island

The sludge lump formed in the Bay of Bengal could be flooded by a single blow from the cyclone. Before this year, no one lived there.

But on Friday afternoon, seven Bangladeshi naval ships carrying more than 1,640 Rohingya Muslims landed on the low-lying island of Bhasan Char, as part of the Bangladeshi government’s plan to ease the crowd in refugee camps where more than a million Rohingya have lived since the systemic escape. persecution and violence in Myanmar.

Advocacy groups decided to resettle, saying the Rohingya were forced to move again against their will.

“The relocation of so many Rohingya refugees to a remote island that is still unlimited for everyone, including advocacy groups and journalists, without prior permission, raises serious concerns about independent monitoring of human rights.” You get Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asian campaigner said on Twitter.

Amnesty said she spoke to several Rohingya who felt compelled instead of checking in to relocate, instead of really wanting to go.

The Bangladeshi government has said it plans to move 100,000 of its Rohingya to Bhasan Char, a “floating island” in Bengal. The estuarine land mass appears to have been formed from sludge in the 1980s and 1990s; The dredging was carried out by, among others, a Chinese company with the aim of making it suitable for housing and preventing tidal flooding.

In the Rohingya refugee camps, located near Bangladesh’s Myanmar border, some residents said people destined for an isolated island evoked mixed emotions.

“Some go happily and some seem to cry,” said Abdur Rahim, the camp’s leader.

Another camp leader, Entetullah, said one of the families in his camp block was headed for Bhasan Char on Friday.

“I can say no one has been forced to leave,” Mr. Entetullah said. – They go voluntarily.

Others said they had no choice but to move.

Bangladesh received with considerable generosity the many refugees from Myanmar, where the Rohingya minority faced a military campaign of executions and village executions, so brutally designed and executed that, according to UN officials, it was carried out with genocidal intent.

As the flow of Rohingya increased in 2017, the shore near the town of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh was taken over by refugee settlements. Huge camps of tents replaced orchards and forests.

Overcrowding caused fatal landslides and floods, and the occasional rampage of elephants was unaware that their path to the river now passed through a canopy city. Armed battles erupted in the camps as various factions fought over limited resources.

With few economic opportunities, some Rohingya paid smugglers to send their daughters as brides to Malaysia, risking a dangerous sea voyage. Over the years, hundreds of Rohingya have died at sea.

In May, hundreds of passengers on such a ship, which got stuck at sea because it could not land in Malaysia, returned to Bangladesh. The dead were thrown on the ship. The survivors were taken to Bhasan Char and have been forced to live there ever since.

Some of the refugees in Bhasan Charba on Friday – a two-hour boat ride – said they were lured by promises of big houses and ornate facilities.

On Friday, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said the government had spent $ 350 million to renovate Bhasan Char, “with all modern facilities, year-round fresh water, a beautiful lake and adequate infrastructure”. The concrete foundations of the buildings were more resilient to natural disasters than the makeshift structures near Cox Bazaar, the ministry said.

But refugees who are already on the island describe living in a common barracks and barely enough space to stretch out. Medical facilities are scarce, they said. Outside, storm waves threaten a country that is regularly battered by cyclones.

Daniel Sullivan, a leading spokesman for Refugees International, called the Rohingya resettlement plan “short-sighted and inhumane”.

Last month, representatives of international human rights groups, including Refugees International, released a letter to the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister calling for unrestricted humanitarian access to Bhasan Char and the opportunity for a full assessment of UN territory. .

The requests were not complied with.