South Korea

Bangladesh to send new batch of Rohingya refugees to remote island

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh will transfer a second batch of Rohingya refugees to a low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday, officials said, despite calls from rights groups to halt the relocation on security grounds.

FILE PHOTO: A buffalo is seen on Basanchar Island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, February 14, 2018.Reuters/Stringer

More than 1,100 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s Muslim minority will be transferred from camps near the Myanmar border to Basanchar Island, two officials with knowledge of the matter said.

Authorities transferred the first batch of more than 1,600 people earlier this month.

“Buses and trucks are ready today to take them and their belongings to the port of Chittagong. Tonight, they will remain there. Tomorrow they will be taken to the island by naval ships,” an official said on Monday.

The officials declined to be named because the issue has not been made public.

Humanitarian agencies and human rights groups have criticized the relocation plans, saying the island, just hours away by boat from the mainland, is prone to flooding, vulnerable to frequent hurricanes and could be completely submerged at high tide.

Bangladesh said it was only transferring people willing to go and that the relocation would ease chronic overcrowding in the camps, which are home to more than 1 million Rohingya.

Mohammed Shamsud Douza, the deputy government official in charge of refugees, said a 12-kilometer embankment had been built to protect the island from flooding and provide housing for 100,000 people. The relocation was voluntary, he said.

“No one is forced to go there,” he said, adding that people could have a better life there, with greater access to health care and education.

But refugees and humanitarian workers say some Rohingya were forced to go to the island, which emerged from the sea 20 years ago and was never inhabited.

In 2017, more than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar following a military-led crackdown that the United Nations said was genocidal. Myanmar denies genocide and says its military targets Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.

Attempts to initiate the process of repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar have failed several times as refugees have refused to return for fear of more violence.

The U.N. said it was not allowed to conduct a technical and security assessment of Basanchar, nor was it involved in the transfer of refugees there.

Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Robert Bursell

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button