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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Bangladesh moves more Rohingyas to remote island despite rights concerns

The Guardian

Veena Thoopkrajae
Bangkok
Mon 28 Dec 2020

Activists say the island of Bhasan Char is not safe and that the refugees are being moved against their will 

Rohingya refugees aboard bound for Bhasan Char island in early December. Photograph: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
 


Bangladesh has begun moving the second group of Rohingya refugees from crammed camps in Cox’s Bazar to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, in defiance of safety and security concerns from international rights advocates.

Groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have urged the Bangladeshi government to halt the relocation of Rohingya to Bhasan Char, which is hours by boat from the mainland, flood-prone, vulnerable to frequent cyclones and could be completely submerged during a high tide.

There are also concerns that the Rohingya, already displaced from Myanmar by ethnic cleansing, may have been bribed to relocate to the island, or that they have faced intimidation tactics to persuade them to do so.
 


International right agencies suspect that refugees have been listed without their consent and have called on Bangladesh to allow an independent inspection of the island.
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The first group of 1,642 Rohingya refugees were relocated to the island earlier in December.

Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, a senior police official and director of the Bhasan Char project, told Bangladesh’s The Daily Star newspaper that about 700 to 1,000 Rohingya refugees would be sent to the island on 28 and 29 December, and that Bhasan Char has been readied to receive the new arrivals.

Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s south Asia campaigner, said concerns about relocation to Bhashan Char stemmed from a “lack of understanding about the human rights safeguards there, including access to healthcare and the right to freedom of movement between the island and Cox’s Bazar”.

Earlier this month, HRW said in a statement that there was limited information on the actual conditions on the island, “and there are some allegations that the authorities may have offered misleading information and incentives to move there”.


However, the Bangladeshi government has denied there are any reasons to be concerned. Mostafizur Rahman, Bangladesh’s permanent representative and ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, said Rohingyas were relocated voluntarily, and that the government has taken measures to improve their quality of life, livelihood and security.

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy government official in charge of refugees, said that a 12km-long embankment had been built to protect the island from floods, along with housing for 100,000 people. Relocation was voluntary, he said.

“No one is forced to go there,” he said, adding that people can live a better life there with greater access to healthcare and education. 
 

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https://twitter.co   m/shafiur/status/1342878325384114176?s=20

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