Dhaka, Aug 18 (EFE).- Bangladeshi authorities said Wednesday they had recovered the bodies of 11 Rohingyas who tried to escape by boat from Bhasan Char island in the Bay of Bengal while 16 people are still missing.
The boat, carrying 41 people on board, sank in the sea around 2:30 am on Saturday as the refugees attempted to flee the island, which is prone to monsoon floods and cyclones.
Bhasan Char police station chief Rafiqul Islam told EFE that 15 people were rescued alive.
“Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard handed over 11 dead bodies to us. They include seven bodies – six children and a man – on Tuesday. We have been informed (that) 16 people still remained missing,” he said.
The Bangladeshi government has so far relocated around 20,000 refugees to the previously uninhibited Bhashan Char island from the main camp in Cox’s Bazar in the county’s southeast.
The refugees had protested during the visit of two United Nations officials to the island in late May, demanding cash aid and jobs.
In April, non-profit Human Rights Watch reported that Bangladesh security forces had arrested and beaten up at least a dozen refugees who were trying to leave the island, restricting their freedom of movement.
Dozens of refugees fled the camp by boat and were subsequently arrested by police in different parts of the coastal Chittagong and Noakhali districts, according to local media reports.
Bangladesh officials have defended the decision to relocate Rohingyas to the island, saying it was necessary to decongest the severely overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Plans to relocate around 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char – spread over around 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) – were first announced in 2017 although the process was delayed due to international pressure until December 2020, when the first thousand refugees were transferred.
Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence launched by the Myanmar military in August 2017, which has been termed ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the UN, while international courts are investigating the incidents for crimes against humanity.
The two countries have twice tried to roll out repatriation of the members of the mainly Muslim minority, but the attempts have failed as the refugees have refused to return until Myanmar guarantees citizenship and security on their native land. EFE