Govt orders restrictions on entry to Bhasan Char  

UNHCR indicates engagement in island

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:14, Jun 03,2021


The government on Wednesday ordered restrictions on entry of outsiders to Bhasan Char for maintaining isolation of the island for Rohingya people.

‘Bhasan Char is an isolated island. There will be no scope for any illegal business. We have ordered measures to keep it isolated. Anybody willing to go to it would require taking prior permission,’ said cabinet committee on law and order head AKM Mozammel Huq at a press briefing after a meeting at the home ministry on Wednesday.

He said that the police, the Border Guard Bangladesh and the Coast Guard were asked to enhance surveillance in and around Bhasan Char where around 18,000 Rohingya refugees were relocated from Cox’s Bazar. 

‘We came to know that many people opened business in the island. There are frequent movements of several hundred trawlers. It must be stopped,’ said Mozammel, also liberation war affairs minister, adding that the authorities are constructing boundary walls on the island and it would require two more months to complete the construction.

About the recent agitation of Rohingya people in Bhasan Char, he said that they might have got instigation for raising their demands in presence of the UN delegation.

Top UNHCR officials in another meeting on Wednesday praised Bhasan Char as a much better place for Rohingyas than the Cox’s Bazar camps and indicated that the organisation would engage in extending services to the members of the community in the island.

About the demands of the Rohingyas, the minister said that their demands for Tk 5,000 as allowance and business opportunities were not acceptable as refugees nowhere got rights of citizens of the country which gave them shelter.

The police and peoples’ representatives were asked to relocate all Rohingyas found anywhere outside the camps in Cox’s Bazar and Bhasan Char to Bhasan Char, said Mozammel. 

UNHCR assistant high commissioner for operations Raouf Mazou said that Bhasan Char was a much better place than the Cox’s Bazar camps as the Bangladesh government had made an important investment in the island.

Indicating to the potentials of engaging in Bhasan Char, she said, ‘We are present in Cox’s Bazar. We will continue to be present in various places around the country and will work with the government to ensure assistance to refugees.’

She was speaking to reporters after a meeting with foreign minister AK Abdul Momen.

Raouf said that anybody might feel isolated in Bhasan Char but they must have economic activities apart from education and healthcare facilities.

UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection Gillian Triggs termed the possibility of third-country settlement as a long-term solution for Rohingya people, mentioning that such settlement can be explored only for a small group of people. 

The ultimate aim of extending interim support to Rohingyas in Bangladesh is to facilitate their repatriation to Myanmar, Triggs said.

Foreign minister Momen said that they had been trying hard for repatriation of Rohingyas as Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas.

‘It is almost four years,’ he said, adding that the UNHCR officials saw the plight of Rohingyas who are very frustrated due to the delay in repatriation.

Momen urged the UNHCR to give more focus on Rakhine State and take Rohingya leaders to Rakhine to allow them to see the situation there.

The two senior UNHCR officials arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday on a four-day visit and saw the Rohingya situation in Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps and Bhasan Char.

They also had a meeting with disaster ministry officials on Wednesday.

Over 18,000 Rohingyas were relocated to Bhasan Char from the camps in Cox’s Bazar as the government invested more than Tk 3,100 crore from own funds to develop almost all amenities and facilities in the 13,000-acre island.

At least 8,60,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, have entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by the Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations has denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning on August 25, 2017, raising the number of members of the community to over 1.1 million.

Not a single Rohingya has gone back to their home in Rakhine yet as the Myanmar government has stalled the repatriation process resorting to various means.

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