No time fixed yet to shift Rohingyas to Bhasanchar

Project cost, duration to go up 

Shakhawat Hossain | Published: 00:00, Dec 08,2019


The government is yet to fix any date for transferring the stipulated one lakh Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasanchar with the likely extension of the shelter project’s completion time by about one and a half years.

Officials said that the cost of the project being implemented by the Navy on the tiny Bay of Bengal island was also set to rise by Tk 858.32 crore, raising suspicion that the planned transfer of Rohingyas might be delayed.

Besides, the UN evaluation of the technical, humanitarian and security arrangements in the new location is yet to be completed.

On top of that, rights groups have been protesting that the island would not be a liveable place for the displaced Myanmar citizens.

Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder told New Age on Saturday that it was up to the government to decide when the transfer process would commence.

‘We are ready to shift Rohingyas,’ he claimed.

In November 2017, the executive committee of the National Economic Council approved the Ashrayan-3 project for giving temporarily shelter to Rohingyas who have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar.

The project is scheduled to be completed this December.

Shah Kamal, secretary of the ministry of disaster management and relief, said that the Rohingya transfer process would not be hampered due to the extension of the project.

He claimed that the environment had already been created in Bhasanchar to start the transfer process soon.

The government has meanwhile identified about 5,000 Rohingya people who will be relocated to the island in Noakhali.

But UN officials have been asking the Bangladesh authorities time and again ‘not to rush for relocation to Bhasanchar’ without assessing with the UN for the technical, humanitarian and security arrangements.

Rights groups said that Bhasanchar would be an equivalent of an island prison, with even more restrictions than what refugees were facing on the mainland.

Ashrayan-3 project director commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury said that a technical team from UN agencies would soon visit Bhasanchar to see the facilities developed so far for Rohingyas.

He hoped that the proposals for upward revisions  of the project would be approve by the ECNEC soon.

On November 26, the Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Institutions wing of the planning commission held a meeting to review the proposals by the Navy for project revisions.

Wing member Zakir Hossain Akanda, who chaired the meeting, said that the revision of the project became imperative as the height of the embankment would be more than doubled.

Planning ministry officials said that the extension of the embankment height to 19 feet from nine and its width to 246 feet would entail a 37 per cent increase in the project cost.

It would now take more than three years to complete the modified project, they said.

They said that the implementing agency wanted the project cost to be raised to Tk 3,170.47 crore from the original Tk 2,313.32 crore.

The government is struggling to shelter displaced Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar makeshift camps after they entered Bangladesh fleeing persecution by the Myanmar military in Rakhine, beginning from August 25, 2017.

The latest Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.

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