Dhaka, Dec 30 (efe-epa).- The government of Bangladesh said on Wednesday that it was ready to involve the United Nations in the process of relocating Rohingya refugees to a remote island, after a barrage of criticism by rights groups over the lack of transparency in the transfers.
The government urged the UN to join the process a day after transferring 1,804 refugees, taking the total number of Rohingyas relocated to the island to nearly 3,500.
The ministry of foreign affairs reiterated the country’s position by defending the relocations in a statement and said it was “ready to facilitate participation of the UN as per its mandate.”
The Bangladesh government insists that the relocation is imperative for decongesting the camps, inhabited by around 738,000 Rohingyas who fled a wave of persecution and violence by the military in neighboring Myanmar in 2017.
The UN has termed the military campaign an example of ethnic cleansing and with elements of genocide, while international courts are investigating Myanmar over the incidents
This month’s transfers are the first phase of Bangladesh’s plan to relocate a total of 100,000 refugees to the island.
The UN and rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International 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.
However, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry insisted that the relocations were voluntary.
“There was no question of the use of force, intimidation or the use of money to influence the decision of the participants,” ministry spokesperson Tohidul Islam said.
He vehemently denied allegations of pressure being exerted on the refugees to agree to the transfer through cash incentives or threats, calling them “distortion and misinformation.”
“It is disheartening that instead of appreciating the good intention of Bangladesh, some quarters have resorted to orchestrating misinformation to create confusion among the international community,” Islam said, underlining that Rohingyas were citizens of Myanmar and Bangladesh was hosting them temporarily in a “humanitarian gesture.”
He added that instead of mounting “undue and unjust” pressure on Bangladesh, the UN should “send a technical and protection assessment team to Myanmar to assess the situation of the existing Rohingyas and also to see the preparation for repatriation on the ground.”
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 project on hold temporarily after international bodies expressed reservations about the project. EFE-EPA