Dhaka, Jan 31 (EFE)- Bangladesh Monday transferred over 1,200 Rohingya refugees to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal in the latest phase of their relocation from congested Cox’s Bazar camps.
The group will join over 20,000 Rohingyas already on the island.
“We have received 1,287 Rohingyas on the island today,” Tanvir Ahmed, in charge of Bhasan Char camp, told EFE.
Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat told EFE that the government’s plan to complete the relocation of Rohingyas might take more time than previously thought.
“We are not forcing anyone to go. So, it is taking time to take their consent and make the arrangements,” he said.
The Bangladesh authorities began transferring the refugees in December 2020 despite concerns from international rights groups over conditions on the previously uninhabited flood-prone island.
The authorities on Oct.9 last year 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.
In April 2021, 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 de-congest 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.
Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence 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