4,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh camps agree to go to Bhasan Char

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Updated at 03:12pm on October 22, 2019

Bangladesh government, expediting its efforts for relocating displaced Myanmar Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, has identified about 4,000 such people till Monday to shift them to the island from their Cox’s Bazar camps.

The government claimed that it was in touch with the UN agencies on facilitating their transfer to the remote island in Noakhali.

‘We want to take good preparations to start shifting Rohingya people to Bhasan Char and to this end we would begin despatching officers to the island from November 1,’ disaster management and relief secretary Shah Kamal told New Age on Monday.

‘We are in touch with the UN agencies about the process of relocation as we want to take them in confidence and the entire efforts would be made through dialogue,’ he said.

Meanwhile, the National Implementation Committee for Administrative Reform in a meeting chaired by prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her Tejgaon office on Monday approved a home ministry proposal, among others, for establishing a new police station at Bhasan Char.

‘The NICAR has approved the home ministry proposal to establish the Bhasan Char police station, among other proposals,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told a press conference at the Secretariat.

The government has completed identification of about 4,000 Rohingya people till Monday with taking their consent for going to the island, officials at the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner in Cox’s Bazar said.

The refugee commissioner’s office was identifying only the people willing to relocate their residence and the physical transfer to the island would require government clearance, they said.

Abul Kalam of a Rohingya camp in Teknaf said that his family agreed to move to the island as the government had assured them of livelihood and security there.

‘We have hardly any option but to go [there] as we do not see any possibility of going back to our home in Rakhine,’ he said.

UN officials have been asking the Bangladesh authorities time and again ‘not to rush for relocation to Bhasan Char’ without assessing with the UN for technical, humanitarian and security arrangements for transferring Rohingya people to Bhasan Char.

When contacted, UNHCR official in Cox’s Bazar Louise Donovan said that following recent developments, including reports that government officials in the camps ‘have begun identifying refugees for relocation, the UN has again reached out to the government seeking clarifications on its relocation plan and the next steps in the process.’

‘The UN considers that any relocation to Bhasan Char must be on a voluntary basis, and the government has also made this commitment in the past,’ she said.

‘To make a decision, refugees need to receive full information regarding safety issues and living conditions on Bhasan Char. Their views must be sought and their concerns addressed as part of a consultative process between the government and the refugee community,’ Louise added.

More than 7,00,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh after fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by the Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, 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.

Not a single Rohingya person has returned to Rakhine since the two countries signed three agreements for facilitating their repatriation under UN supervision.