Bangladesh sends Rohingya leaders to controversial remote island

Dhaka, Sep 5 (efe-epa).- Bangladesh on Saturday transported 40 Rohingya leaders to a remote island as part of a controversial plan to relocate 10,000s of refugees there.

A community of the Islamic ethnic minority has been living in camps in the south of the country after fleeing violence in Myanmar three years ago.

Mahbub Alam Talukder, Bangladeshi commissioner for refugee relief and repatriation, told Efe: “There they will see the facilities we have built and tell their community what it is like, to convince them.”

Bangladesh’s government wants the persecuted stateless people to relocate to the uninhabited island of Bhasan Char off the Asian country’s coast.

Authorities hope to be able to move around 100,000 refugees voluntarily to the island, which is often flooded during monsoon rains but which Talukder says is safe.

“The start of the transfers will depend on several factors, including the weather,” he added.

The administrative head of the Noakhali district, under which the island is located, told Efe the Rohingya leaders will spend three days on Bhasan Char before returning to their respective communities on the mainland.

The island is about 40 square kilometers in size, accessible only by boat and since May has been home to about 300 Rohingya who were rescued by the Bangladeshi navy after spending weeks stranded at sea.

The Bangladeshi government’s plans have been strongly criticized by human rights organizations.

Human Rights Watch and United Nations agencies have repeatedly urged authorities not to replace one humanitarian crisis with another.

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