Published:  03:50 PM, 03 December 2020

Bangladesh urged not to ship Rohingya to Bhasan Char

Bangladesh urged not to ship Rohingya to Bhasan Char

Human rights groups urgedBangladesh on Thursday to stop its plan to ship thousands of Rohingya refugeesto a remote island as officials said the first group of 400 could leave laterin the day.

Police escorted the refugees in10 buses from Ukhiya in Cox's Bazar for the journey to Chittagong port and thenon to Bhasan Char – a flood-prone Bay of Bengal island that emerged from thesea 20 years ago.

Bangladesh says moving refugeeswho agree to go to the island will ease chronic overcrowding in its camps whichare home to more than 1 million Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority who havefled neighbouring Myanmar.

"The authorities shouldimmediately halt relocation of more refugees to Bhashan Char," AmnestyInternational’s South Asia Campaigner Saad Hammadi said in a statement.

US-based advocacy group RefugeesInternational said the plan was "short-sighted and inhumane" whilethe Fortify Rights Group said the relocations may be "coerced and involuntary"and should cease immediately.

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, thedeputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees, said therelocation was voluntary.

"They are going therehappily. No one is forced. The government has taken all measures to deal withdisasters, including their comfortable living and livelihood."

A senior foreign ministryofficial said the refugees were being moved because there was little prospect ofrepatriating them to Myanmar.

Bangladeshi officials said thefirst 400 of 2,500 refugees would leave on Thursday evening, depending on thetide. The journey takes several hours.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fledMyanmar in 2017 following a military-led crackdown that the United Nations hassaid was executed with genocidal intent. Myanmar denies genocide and says itsforces were targeting Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.



A senior Bangladeshi official hassaid housing was built for 100,000 people on the island and authorities want torelocate them during the November to April dry season when the sea is calm.

The United Nations said in astatement it had been given "limited information" about therelocations and was not involved in preparations.

Omar Faruq, one Rohingya leaderwho had been on a government trip, said the island was "trulybeautiful", with better facilities than in the refugee camps and that hewould be ready to go, but that most people did not want to go there.

"We don’t want to end upliving an isolated prison-like life," said Nurul Amin, one Rohingyarefugee who was not on the list.

More than 300 refugees werebrought to the island earlier this year after several months at sea in anattempt to flee Bangladesh. Rights groups say they are being held against theirwill and have complained of human rights violations.

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