Dhaka, Dec 28 (efe-epa).- A second group of around 1,000 Rohingya refugees were on Monday sent to a remote island in Bangladesh despite strong criticism by international bodies over the opacity of the process and complaints of forced transfer.
“Our people are working there over relocation,” Mohammad Mohsin, the secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry, told EFE, confirming the relocation of around a thousand refugees as part of the second phase of a plan which eventually aims to house a total of 100,000 refugees on the Bhasan Char island.
Local daily New Age reported that these refugees left the transition camp in Ukhiya, situated in the Cox’s Bazar district, for the port city of Chattogram in 21 buses on Monday morning, escorted by the police and an ambulance.
As part of the first phase, Bangladesh authorities had relocated more than 1,600 refugees to Bhasan Char on Dec. 4.
The 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 – which is prone to monsoon floods and cyclones – and the lack of transparency in the process.
“Allegations from within the community about cash incentives being offered to Rohingya families to relocate to Bhashan Char as well as use of intimidation tactics are making the relocation process questionable,” Amnesty International’s South Asia campaigner Saad Hammadi said in a statement on Monday.
Bangladesh first announced in 2017 its plan to relocate Rohingyas to the 40-sq km island located in the Bay of Bengal, although the authorities had put the plan on hold temporarily after the United Nations expressed doubts about the project.
The UN, which had insisted that the transfer process should be voluntary, clarified 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 has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide. EFE-EPA