Bangladesh sends 3rd group of Rohingya refugees to island

The relocation plan a newly developed island in the Bay of Bengal is meant to offer better living conditions, says Bangla govt.

January 29, 2021 12:07 pm | Updated 12:07 pm IST - Dhaka

Rohingya refugees walk with their children and belongings to be relocated to to the island of Bhasan Char, in Chattogram, Bangladesh, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Rohingya refugees walk with their children and belongings to be relocated to to the island of Bhasan Char, in Chattogram, Bangladesh, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

Authorities in Bangladesh sent a third group of Rohingya refugees to a newly developed island in the Bay of Bengal on Friday despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process.

The government insists the relocation plan is meant to offer better living conditions while attempts to repatriate more than 1 million refugees to Myanmar would continue.

Watch | To where is Bangladesh relocating Rohingya refugees?

On Friday morning, 1,778 refugees started their journey to the island of Bhasan Char in four navy vessels from the southeastern port city of Chattogram, after they were brought from crammed camps in Cox's Bazar district, said M. Mozammel Haque, a commander of the Bangladesh navy.

He said a fourth batch would be sent to the island Saturday.

“Around 4,000 refugees have already been sent to the island since December, but we have the capacity of accommodating 100,000. The process will continue until we fulfill it,” he told reporters.

Haque said the refugees were being treated well on the island and they would have the option of generating income by rearing cattle or poultry and could also engage in making handicrafts.

He said they wanted them to contribute to the economy, but their repatriation to Myanmar is the ultimate goal.

“They will be checked by our doctors when they arrive today. They will be given food and accommodation properly,” he said.

While human rights groups criticised the move, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina repeatedly said the refugees were moving to the island voluntarily under government management.

Authorities say the refugees were selected for relocation based on their willingness, and that no pressure was applied. But several human rights and activist groups say some refugees have been forced to go to the island, located 34 km from the mainland.

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 100,000 people, just a fraction of 1 million Rohingya Muslims who fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar and are currently living in crowded, squalid refugee camps in Cox's Bazar.

International aid agencies have opposed the relocation since it was first proposed in 2015, expressing fear that a big storm could overwhelm the island and endanger thousands of lives. But the government said the human rights groups and the U.N. should understand its good intentions.

The United Nations also voiced concern that refugees are allowed to make a “free and informed decision” about whether to relocate. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have urged the government to cancel the plan.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.