Bangladesh seeks UN support to relocate Rohingyas to island

Dhaka, Feb 20 (EFE).- Bangladesh Monday urged the United Nations to help relocate Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char island in the Bay of Bengal from their densely-populated camp in the southeast Cox’s Bazar region.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told this to the UN resident coordinator for the country Gwyn Lewis, who called on her in Dhaka.

“As there is no certainty of sending Rohingyas back soon to their country, they should be relocated to Bhasan Char and the UN can cooperate to this end,” Hasina’s speech-writer M Nazrul Islam quoted her as saying.

“If the Rohingyas can be relocated to Bhashan Char, where accommodations for over 100,000 people have been created with livelihoods, they can lead a dignified life in a livable atmosphere,” she said.

Bangladesh has transferred nearly 29,000 Rohingyas to the island since December 2020.

The transfer process slowed in recent months due to a lack of funding, Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh, told EFE. “Relocation has continued, but not on a full scale like in the past.”

Rahman said they needed funding for a large-scale relocation, and “the UN is not on board with us” over the relocation process.

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

In April 2021, Human Rights Watch reported that Bangladesh security forces arrested and beat up at least a dozen refugees trying to leave the island.

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

Bangladeshi officials defended the relocation, saying it was necessary to de-congest the overcrowded refugee camps.

The UN said it was committed to supporting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh despite cuts in international aid.

“They reaffirmed commitments to strengthen the UN-Bangladesh partnership on the Rohingya refugee response, despite funding shortages,” the UN said in a statement after its resident coordinator met Hasina.

A World Food Programme statement on Feb.17 said it would have to reduce its assistance voucher value from $12 to $10 per person per month due to a $125 million funding shortfall.

Bangladesh is home to over 925,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled neighboring Myanmar, including around 774,000 who escaped after the military launched a campaign in 2017 described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the UN. EFE


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