Bangladesh tranfers 1,804 Rohingya to isolated island

Rohingya refugees travel in a naval ship to be transported to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal, in Chittagong, Bangladesh, on December 29.  

Seven Bangladesh Navy ships carrying 1,804 Rohingya refugees arrived on Tuesday at an isolated island where they will be relocated despite concerns among human rights groups about their safety.

They reached Bhashan Char island, 34 km from the mainland, after a four-hour naval journey from the port city of Chittagong, government official Mohammed Khurshed Alam Khan said.

He said authorities at the island received 433 men, 523 women and 848 children. Authorities insist all were willing to be relocated and no pressure was placed on them. But several human rights and activist groups say some were forced to go.

It was the second group of Rohingya refugees transferred from crowded, squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar district to the island. Authorities sent a first group of 1,642 on December 4 despite calls for a halt by human rights groups.

Rear Admiral Md Mozammel Haque, commander of the local Navy, said the number of refugees willing to join the second phase of relocation “exceeded their expectations.”

He said the authorities were initially expecting to relocate around 1,200 refugees, but 1,804 chose to go.

The island surfaced only 20 years ago and was not previously inhabited.

It was regularly submerged by monsoon rains but now has flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals and mosques built at a cost of more than $112 million by the Bangladesh Navy.

The island’s facilities are designed to accommodate 1,00,000 people, just a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who fled waves of violent persecution in Myanmar and are currently living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

International aid agencies and the U.N. have opposed the relocation since it was first proposed in 2015, expressing fear that a big storm could wash over the island and endanger thousands of lives.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 7:44:39 PM |

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