Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP) – Authorities in Bangladesh on Friday began sending the first group of more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees to a segregated island despite being called by human rights groups for a halt for the process.
According to an official, 1,642 refugees Bhushan boarded seven Bangladeshi naval vessels in Chittagong port to visit four, who could not be designated as per local practice.
The island was regularly submerged by monsoon rains, but now flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals and mosques have been built by the Bangladesh Navy at a cost of more than $ 112 million.
Situated 21 miles (34 kilometers) from the mainland, the island emerged only 20 years ago and was never inhabited.
The United Nations has also expressed concern that refugees have been allowed to make “free and informed decisions” about relocating the island to the Bay of Bengal.
The island’s facilities are built to accommodate 100,000 people, just part of the million Rohingya Muslims who have fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar and are currently living in crowded, illegal refugee camps.
On Thursday, 11 passenger buses carrying refugees set out from Cox’s Bazar district on their way to the island, where they are expected to arrive after an overnight stay, a government official involved with the process said on condition of anonymity because He was not authorized to speak. communication medium.
He said that “a few thousand” refugees were in the first batch. Cox’s Bazar officials did not say how the refugees were selected for resettlement.
Around 700,000 Rohingya fled to camps in Cox’s Bazar after August 2017, when the military in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar began harsh action on the Muslim group following an attack by rebels. The attack involved rape, murders and the suffering of thousands of homes, and was dubbed as ethnic cleansing by global rights groups
Foreign media are not allowed to visit the island.
The contractors say that its infrastructure is like a modern township, with a majority of concrete houses, schools, playgrounds and roads. It also has solar-power facilities, a water supply system and cyclone shelters.
International aid agencies and the United Nations have opposed resettlement since it was first proposed in 2015, expressing fears that a major storm could endanger the island and thousands of lives.
The UN said in a statement on Wednesday that it was not involved in preparations for resettlement or refugee selection and had limited information about the overall plan.
“The United Nations takes this opportunity to highlight its long-standing position that Rohingya refugees should be able to make independent and informed decisions about relocating the Bhasan Char based on relevant, accurate and updated information,” he said. Said this
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the government to cancel the rehabilitation plan.
The current refugee camps near the town of Cox’s Bazar are crowded and unclean. Diseases and organized crime occur on a large scale. Education is limited and refugees are not allowed to work.
Still, most Rohingya are not willing to return to Myanmar due to security concerns. Government officials did not anticipate how many refugees would be prepared to relocate to the island.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly told the United Nations and other international partners that her administration will consult them before making a final decision on resettlement, and that no refugees will be forced to relocate.
Bangladesh began an effort to send refugees back to Myanmar last November under a bilateral framework, but no one was willing to leave.
The Rohingya are not recognized as citizens in Myanmar, are stateless, and face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination.
In 2018 an UN-sponsored investigation recommended prosecuting Myanmar’s top military commanders for violence against the Rohingya for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Myanmar is defending itself in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, after the West African nation Gambia brought a case supported by the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Canada and the Netherlands.