Bangladesh bans nighttime boat movement in Rohingya island

Dhaka, Oct 21 (EFE)- Authorities in Bangladesh Thursday announced a ban on nighttime boat movement from remote Bay of Bengal island Bhasan Char that houses thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Home Minister Asaduzzamak Khan said the government decided the ban after a meeting of the national committee on Rohingya refugees in the camp areas of Bangladesh.

Khan said the decision was to maintain law and order in the camp areas.

Bangladesh has so far relocated 20,000 Rohingya refugees to the island from Cox’s Bazar of the country’s southeast and plans to take another 80,000 in the next three months.

A senior police official in Bhasan Char police station told EFE that they often arrest the Rohingyas who attempt to flee the island by boat at night.

The authorities on Oct.9 signed an agreement with United Nations agencies for providing humanitarian support to the Rohingyas on the island.

The agreement covers protection, education, skills training, livelihoods, and health for the refugees who have fled Myanmar.

The UN hoped the agreement would help support the refugees to lead decent lives on the island and better prepare them for sustainable return to Myanmar in the future.

Rights groups have previously expressed concerns over conditions on the previously uninhabited island, prone to monsoon floods and cyclones.

In April, Human Rights Watch reported that Bangladesh security forces had arrested and beaten up at least a dozen refugees trying to leave the island.

The rights group alleged that the authorities had restricted their freedom of movement subsequently.

Bangladesh officials defended the relocation of Rohingyas to the island, saying it was necessary to decongest the massively overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Plans to relocate around 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char, spread over an area of some 40 sq km, were first announced in 2017.

However, the process got delayed due to international pressure until December 2020, when authorities shipped the first batch of refugees to the island.

Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence launched by the Myanmar military in August 2017.

The UN has termed the military crackdown as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide, while international courts are investigating the incidents for crimes against humanity. EFE


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