Dhaka, Jul 9 (efe-epa).- The nonprofit Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the Bangladesh authorities to move some 300 Rohingya refugees from the remote sea island of Bhasan Char to the main camps in Cox’s Bazar in the southeastern part of the country.
The Rohingyas, who had been stranded at sea for several weeks, were rescued by the Bangladesh Navy in May and taken to Bhashan Char island, which until then was uninhabited, in the Bay of Bengal.
According to the New York-based rights group, the Bangladesh government was yet to allow relief efforts from United Nations for the refugees “detained” on Bhasan Char, despite an earlier promise in this regard.
HRW said that the government had initially insisted on taking the refugees to the island for quarantine purposes to avoid risking the spread of Covid-19 in the crowded refugee camps.
“Bangladesh authorities are using the pandemic as an excuse to detain refugees on a spit of land in the middle of a churning monsoon sea while their families anxiously pray for their return,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW said in the statement.
Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder said there were no plans to move the Rohingyas from the island.
“We believe they are fine and living in a much secured condition in Bhasan Char in monsoon,” Talukder told EFE.
The island, usually hit by monsoon floods, emerged from the sea about a decade ago. It covers an area of about 40 square kilometers, or 16 square miles, and is accessible only by boat.
The government has said it built 1,440 housing structures to shelter some 100,000 people in the island, as a part of a project started in 2017.
However, the government’s initial plan of relocating the Rohingyas to the flood-prone island had been halted in February amid criticisms from rights groups, who asked the authorities not to replace one humanitarian crisis with another.
Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.
Undocumented Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have been using the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to reach other countries in a quest for a better life. EFE-EPA