The government would send about 400 newly arrived Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char in Noakhali to avoid overcrowding in the already congested camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The government would also send to Bhasan Char the recently rescued and detained Rohingya refugees following their failed attempts at leaving the camps in connivance with the traffickers.
‘We will send 400 Rohingya newcomers to Bhasan Char as there is no space in the already overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar,’ disaster management and relief secretary Md Shah Kamal told New Age on Tuesday.
Bangladesh received nearly 400 Rohingya people who came to the shore on a boat on April 15 after remaining stranded at sea for two months and they were put in quarantine due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen earlier said that all future arrivals will be transferred to Bhasan Char.
The government has already sent 29 Rohingya refugees, who were inhabitants of camps in Cox’s Bazar, to the island, the secretary said.
They were captured after landing on another Bangladesh island as a part of an attempt to go abroad in connivance with traffickers after families paid for the venture.
‘Our assessment is that the people who flee from the camps are unwilling to live in the camps. So we will transfer them to Bhasan Char,’ he said, adding it might work as a deterrent to others attempting to leave the camps with the help of the traffickers.
Shah Kamal said there are arrangements in Bhasan Char to provide humanitarian aid to the newly arrived people. ‘We will engage the UN agencies once a good number of aid recipients reach the island.’
New York-based Human Rights Watch was, however, critical about transferring Rohingya people to Bhasan Char, what the rights body described as ‘quarantine’ without adequate access to aid at an unstable shoal in the Bay of Bengal.
‘Bangladesh faces the tremendous challenge of assisting Rohingya boat people while preventing the spread of COVID-19, but sending them to a dangerously flood-prone island without adequate healthcare is hardly the solution,’ HRW Asia director Brad Adams said in a press release issued on Tuesday.
Residential and other facilities were built in Bhasan Char at the cost of Tk 2500 crore to relocate over 1,00,000 forcibly displaced Rohingya people of Myanmar to ease overcrowding at camps in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban.
The initiative of the planned relocation faltered as the UN and other international rights bodies were against it and the Rohingya people were unwilling to move there.
Another initiative of the government to prepare lists of people from low-income groups willing to migrate to Bhasan Char, to make use of the island’s facilities, also faltered in COVID-19 pandemic situation.
The latest Rohingya influx that began on August 25, 2017 amid unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies.
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