Families forced to leave . . .
Bangladesh started relocating thousands of Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char island in the Bay of Bengal today. The Bangladeshi government said Thursday that only willing refugees would be moved, but rights groups report that many families are being coerced into relocating. Human Rights Watch spoke with 12 families that will be relocated without having volunteered. Some refugees said that they thought they were signing up to receive food, money, or to receive priority for returning to Myanmar. Others have been threatened if they refused to relocate. The government has provided only limited information about the conditions on the island to the refugees.
Plan to relocate 100,000 before monsoon . . .
Bhasan Char is a low-lying silt island vulnerable to cyclones and floods. In 2017, the Bangladeshi government ordered refugees to resettle on the island to deal with chronic overcrowding of the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, which are home to more than one million Rohingya. The government has built housing, hospitals, and mosques on Bhasan Char, but the resettlement of refugees raises additional concerns. For example, it is unclear whether refugees will have freedom of movement and access to essential services and whether NGOs will be able to offer humanitarian assistance on the island. Already, rights groups have complained of human rights violations against the 300 refugees already on the island.
Rights groups urging Bangladesh to halt relocation . . .
By pushing ahead with the relocation before humanitarian experts could give their support, Bangladesh’s government is breaking with its commitments to the UN. The UN has not been allowed to assess the island and has been excluded from the preparation for the transfer of the refugees. Rights groups are urging the Bangladeshi government to halt the relocation until an assessment of the island’s safety has been made and to ensure that relocation is voluntary. They are also urging donor governments, including Canada, to take a clear stance against the relocation. Since 2017, Canada has been committed to offering humanitarian and development assistance to Bangladesh for taking on the responsibility of Rohingya refugees.
- Aljazeera: Bangladesh ships Rohingya to remote island despite outcry
- The Guardian: Bangladesh begins moving Rohingya families to remote island
- Human Rights Watch: Bangladesh: Halt Rohingya relocations to remote island