HRW says Bangladesh forces Rohingyas relocate to remote island

Dhaka, June 7 (EFE).- Bangladesh authorities forced Rohingya refugees to relocate to a remote island without adequate facilities, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday.

In the 58-page report titled “An Island Jail in the Middle of the Sea,” HRW alleged that Bangladesh transferred many refugees without full, informed consent and prevented them from returning to the main camp in Cox’s Bazar.

“The Bangladesh government is finding it hard to cope with over a million Rohingya refugees but forcing people to a remote island just creates new problems,” said Bill Frelick, refugee and migrant rights director at HRW.

The government so far relocated around 20,000 refugees to Bhasan Char since December last year.

Rights groups are concerned over conditions on the previously uninhabited island, prone to monsoon floods and cyclones.

Officials have defended the relocation, saying it was necessary to decongest the overcrowded refugee camps.

HRW said it interviewed 167 refugees between May 2020 and May 2021, including 117 on Bhasan Char and 50 in Cox’s Bazar, 30 of whom were later relocated to the island.

A 53-year-old man said he went into hiding after the camp administrator threatened him.

“Even if I die, they will take my body there. I don’t want to go to that island,” the rights group quoted the man as saying.

HRW South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly told EFE that the authorities confiscated their smart cards after several refugees went into hiding.

“They know that without the smart cards, people cannot get food and other assistance. So they agreed to go, and their cards were returned to them on their way,” Ganguly said.

She pointed out that several interviewees had volunteered, but it was not fully informed consent.

They believed that they would get monthly cash assistance, better food, and jobs.

The HRW report said the refugees and aid workers complained that the facilities were inadequate on the island.

The right group interviewed 14 people who said they had sought treatment for health conditions, including asthma, pain, fever, arthritis, diabetes, ulcers, and malaria.

But most were handed paracetamol tablets and sent away.

Four of the 14 died, and their family members believe that it was due to inadequate emergency health care, the HRW report.

Refugees told the rights group that they were promised schools and formal accredited education for their children on the island.

However, an aid worker said an estimated 8,495 children were on Bhasan Char, but “at the best four NGOs are providing education to no more than 1,500 children.”

Bangladesh authorities denied the allegations.

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