Bangladesh to move more Rohingya Muslims to remote island, despite protests By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Bangladeshi Navy personnel help a disabled Rohingya refugee boy off a Navy ship as they arrive on Bhasan Char Island in Noakhali District

By Ruma Paul DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh will move an additional 3,000 to 4,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal over the next two days, two officials said on Sunday, despite concerns about the risk of storms and floods that hit the place. Dhaka has relocated some 7,000 to Bhasan Char Island since early December from border camps in neighboring Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where more than a million refugees live in ramshackle huts perched on washed-out hillsides. The Rohingya refugees will be transferred to Bhasan Char by boats on Monday and Tuesday, said Navy Commodore Rashed Sattar from the island. Bangladesh says relocation is voluntary, but some of the first group to relocate spoke of being coerced. The government has dismissed security concerns on the island, citing the construction of flood defenses, as well as housing for 100,000 people, hospitals and cyclone centers. He also says that overcrowding in refugee camps fuels crime. Once they arrive in Bhasan Char, the Rohingya, a minority group who fled the violence, are not allowed to leave the island, which is several hours’ drive from the southern port of Chittagong. Bangladesh has been criticized for its reluctance to consult with the United Nations refugee agency and other aid agencies about transfers. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the agency has not been allowed to assess the safety and sustainability of life on the island. “The process of relocating the Rohingya will continue … they go there happily in search of a better life,” said Mohammad Shamsud Douza, the Bangladeshi government deputy official in charge of refugees, by phone from Cox’s Bazar in southeast Bangladesh. “Our top priority is to repatriate them to their homeland in a dignified and sustainable way,” he said. Bangladesh has called on Myanmar to advance the stalled process of voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees, as international pressure on military leaders increases following a coup, reducing the refugees’ hopes of returning home. “I don’t see any future for us,” said a 42-year-old refugee who decided to move from the island. “The little hope we had of returning to our homeland was broken after the coup.”

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