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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Bhasan Char comes alive with Rohingya residents. Now they want to bring in more refugees

bdnews24.com

Reazul Bashar,
bdnews24.com
from Bhasan Char
Published: 05 Dec 2020

Rohingya children play in the veranda of their new home. Photo: Reazul Bashar

Many of the relocated refugees were sharing their experiences with those in Cox’s Bazar by phone. Some used video calls to show their new homes. The children began playing in open spaces.

The government has maintained all along that the relocated refugees will be in better conditions than their peers in the Cox’s Bazar camps, but the United Nations and other international agencies have distanced themselves from the project.

Expressing his views on the difference between the camps and Bhasan Char, Jobayer said: “They are incomparable. The houses are made of concrete here and the shanties in Cox’s Bazar are made of polythene sheets.”The man, who brought his wife and three children along with him, said he would never go back to Cox’s Baza.
 
Workers hand over luggage to the relocated Rohingya families on Bhasan Char, a remote island. Photo: Reazul Bashar 
 
Most of the refugees crossed the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar over three years ago to take shelter in Cox’s Bazar, leaving behind the bodies of loved ones and burning homes. A lack of security and safety in the camps became apparent as time passed, with repeated crimes, such as murders and drug smuggling.

Abdur Rahman, another new resident of Bhasan Char, said he feels safer on the island. “I faced assaults several times in the camp. But there won’t be such problems here. I want to live well.”

“Whenever I wanted to go outside there, everyone called me a thief. It won’t happen here.”

Rahman said it was easy for thieves to break into the Cox’s Bazar shanties. “But the houses here are very safe.”

Rahman hopes to open a shop or drive cars on the Bhasan Char island for a living.
 A Rohingya man speaks to his relatives, who are in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, over phone after his relocation to the Bhasan Char island. Photo: Reazul Bashar
 
 The relocated Rohingya families are getting separate rooms with cooking facilities, electricity and sewerage systems, along with playgrounds, storm shelters, and livelihood opportunities.

In all, the project comprises 120 cluster villages with 1,440 rooms and 120 shelter stations. Each room has separate toilets and bathrooms for men and women as well as a kitchen. Each cluster village consists of 12 houses, each with 16 rooms. Each room can accommodate four people.

The rooms have more space than 37 square feet per head, the minimum space standard set by the UN, according to Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, the director of the Ashrayan or shelter project for the Rohingya.The 1,642 Rohingya moved to the island on Friday have been allocated 48 houses in clusters 7 to 10.

A Rohingya resident of Bhasan Char appears happy with her new house. Photo: Reazul Bashar 
 
Abdus Samad, who has brought his parents along with his wife and children, is happy to see the houses with larger rooms than those in Cox’s Bazar, and the learning centres and playgrounds.

“There is no space for another person to walk when someone gets out in the Cox’s Bazar camps,” he said.

The international human rights groups allege that the Rohingya refugees were coerced for relocation, but some of the refugees have alleged that they were frightened not to move to Bhasan Char.

“Many warned us of tidal surges and crocodiles. Now I see they are wrong. We can live freely here. We can cultivate crops here. There was no place for cultivation in Kutupalong,” said Mohammad Oli Ullah, another refugee.
An elderly Rohingya man speaks to his relatives, who are in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, via video call after his arrival on the Bhasan Char island. Photo: Reazul Bashar

The government planned two years ago to relocate some of the Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar considering the social issues as the efforts to repatriate them fell flat.

Accordingly, it prepared the island for human habitation. Some 300 refugees were recently sent there after they had been rescued while being trafficked to Malaysia.

On Sept 5, the authorities took a group of refugee representatives on a tour of the island from the Cox’s Bazar camps.

After hearing stories about the island from them, many refugees expressed their willingness to move there, government officials said.

“We’ve made beautiful living arrangements here. They will be in a better condition here,” said Project Director Mamun Chowdhury.

A man sees a doctor at the Bhasan Char healthcare centre. Photo: Reazul Bashar

For now, 22 NGOs will work to meet the refugees’ need for food, healthcare and other services, said Mohammad Shamsu Douza, the government’s commissioner of refugee, relief and repatriation. They will be given cooked food for seven days. All the families will get LPG cylinders for cooking.

The government has built a high embankment to protect 1,702 acres of coastal land from tidal surges in the event of extreme weather conditions. Within it, the housing project sprawls over 432 acres, while another 916 acres have been reserved for future expansion and afforestation plans.

For every cluster, there is also a four-storey composite shelter station. These shelter stations are capable of withstanding cyclones with wind speeds of up to 260 km.

 Link : Here

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