12/04/2020, 15.40
BANGLADESH
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More than 1,600 Rohingya refugees transferred to Bhasan Char Island (VIDEO)

by Sumon Corraya

The government organised the move to reduce overcrowding at the large Cox's Bazar camp. For some NGO, they were moved by forced. The authorities deny the charges, saying that the move took place on a voluntary basis. Caritas is ready to help. The UN says it was not involved.

 

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – More than 1,600 Rohingya refugees were transferred today from the large refugee camp in Cox's Bazar to Bhasan Char Island, in the Bay of Bengal. Originally there were supposed to be 2,500.

The authorities spent 31 billion takas (around US5 million) to build facilities to accommodate the newcomers. About 400 families sailed on seven boats from Chattogram (Chittagong) arriving after three and half hours. They were accompanied by some journalists. Upon arrival, all were tested at COVID-19.

In Cox's Bazar, eastern Bangladesh, several tent cities are home to about a million Rohingya from Myanmar. The group is overwhelming Muslim. they fled their country in recent years because of widespread persecution by the local military.

In Bangladesh, local authorities have justified moving the refugees to the island because of overcrowding at Cox's Bazar, noting that the move to Bhasan Char was voluntary.

Speaking to Reuters, Rohingya refugees and humanitarian organisations reject the government’s claim. The refugees were forced to move to the island, which emerged from the waters about 20 years ago and is often subject to flooding.

Back in May, the government settled 306 Rohingya in Bhasan Char after they were rescued at sea after fleeing their country. For humanitarian groups, this constitutes a violation of human rights. The authorities now plan to move the group to Cox's Bazar, where family members are located.

Interviewed by local TV before leaving, some Rohingya said they were happy with the new accommodation. “We are going to Bhasan Char for our safety and to improve our living conditions. We will be able to live in peace and educate our children.” Once they are settled in, the rest of the families should follow in a few months.

The Rohingya brought to the island include a Christian family of five, a minority leader in Cox's Bazar told AsiaNews.

Khurul Ali (not a real name) said that the people going to Bhasan Char did so voluntarily; the government has provided them with good accommodations. However, Khurul does not want to move there because "The island has a great disadvantage, you cannot move freely from there".

Marcel Ratan Guda, director of emergency projects at Caritas Bangladesh, explained that his organisation is ready to work in Bhasan Char if it obtains the necessary permits and funds.

He said that he was not aware of forced relocation or that some NGOs had filed complaints. “We are following government guidelines.”

On Wednesday, the United Nations stated that it had little information on the relocation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and that it was not involved in the transfers to Bhasan Char, which it asks to be voluntary. It also said that it was ready to consult with Bangladeshi authorities on the matter.

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