Dhaka, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- Bangladesh on Friday began transferring more than 1,700 Rohingyas to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal in the third phase of relocation from congested camps in Cox’s Bazar in the country’s south east, authorities said.
Mohammad Shamsuddoha, Bangladesh’s Refugees, Relief and Repatriation commissioner, told EFE that the refugees were headed for Bhasan Char Island in four Bangladeshi Navy ships from the port city of Chittagong.
“More than 1,700 left for Bhasan Char [Friday.] We are planning to send another 1,500 [Saturday.] The number could slightly differ depending on the voluntariness of the Rohingya,” the commissioner said.
Bangladesh Navy Commodore Mamun Chowdhury, Project Director at Bhasan Char, said they are ready to take some 3,000 Rohingays to the island in two days.
Local television showed several dozens of buses and trucks Thursday with police guards carrying the Rohingyas and their belongings to Chittagong from a temporary transit camp in Cox’s Bazar.
Authorities have transferred about 3,500 Rohingyas to the island in the first two phases in December.
Bangladesh government has defended the relocation as imperative for decongesting the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.
However, international groups such as Human Rights Watch have urged Dhaka to stop the process due to the conditions on the previously uninhabited island – prone to monsoon floods and cyclones – and the lack of transparency in the process.
Bangladesh first announced in 2017 its plan to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas to the 40-sqkm island located in the Bay of Bengal, although authorities had put the plan on temporary hold after the United Nations expressed doubts about the project.
The UN, which had insisted that the transfer process should be voluntary, said in December that it was not involved in preparations for the movement or the identification of refugees and had limited information on the overall relocation exercise.
Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar that the UN described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.EFE-EPA