Over 3,000 Rohingya are now housed in the new reception centre. “Here we are happy,” says Hamida Begum, one of the refugees. Dil Mohommad calls it a “healthy place for us,” unlike Cox's Bazar. Foreign media and human rights groups are critical, describe the island as dangerous and at risk of flooding.
Noakhali (AsiaNews) – Bangladesh has begun to move Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char Island. The first reactions among the people relocated are positive; for them, the accommodations are better than in Cox's Bazar.
“In the new [reception] centre in Bhasan Char we have all the basics. Here we are happy. Our situation is better than in the Cox's Bazar refugee camp,” said Hamida Begum, a Rohingya woman who arrived on the island last Wednesday.
Dil Mohommad likes it too. He hopes to wait on the island “before returning to Myanmar” where the Muslim minority comes from. “This is a healthy place for us because of greater security and it is less overcrowded.”
Some even consider it “nice”, despite recent complaints from human rights groups and foreign media, who describe Bhasan Char as unsafe due to natural disasters and the ever-present danger of flooding.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen responded to the criticism by announcing a visit of foreign journalists and diplomats to the island, so that they can see the situation of the Rohingya with their own eyes.
All the refugees’ basic needs are addressed, he explained. The latest material is available, including the 4G network for fast internet browsing. In his view, some media relay fake news and this “is not good for the safety” of the guests of the centre.
This year, he added, repatriation operations of the Rohingya to Myanmar will begin under maximum security.
This is not something new. Large numbers of Rohingya were already repatriated in 1978-1982 and hopefully this will be the year when most refugees will go home, peacefully. “China and Japan will help us in this process,” Minister Momen said.
The idea of using Bhasan Char as a refugee centre came as a result of the poor conditions in Cox's Bazar, and it took five years to complete the US$ 350 million project to set up the centre.
For its part, Caritas is waiting for the authorities to give the green light to start providing aid to the refugees, as it did in Cox's Bazar.
In one month 3,446 refugees found new accommodation on Bhasan Char; and most of them say they are “satisfied” and are determined “not to go back” to Cox’s Bazar.