Rights groups report Rohingya abuse in remote Bangladesh island

Dhaka, Sep 15 (efe-epa).- Rohingya refugees held in Bangladesh’s remote Bhsan Char island have been subjected to abuses and should be allowed to reunite with their families in the main camps, two global rights groups said on Tuesday.

Some 300 Rohingyas, who had been stranded at sea for several weeks, were rescued by the Bangladesh Navy in May and were taken to the island, where they have been held for four months now.

New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch in a statement said the Bangladesh government had failed to honor its pledge not to involuntarily hold Rohingya refugees on the remote, “unprotected” island of Bhasan Char.

“The Bangladesh government is detaining refugees on a remote island, separated from their families, in a callous attempt to claim that that it is safe and habitable,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement.

Bangladesh authorities on Sep, 5 arranged a three-day “go-and-see visit” to Bhasan Char for 40 Rohingya refugees, including camp leaders, during which, HRW said, “Those on the island begged to be allowed to return to their families in Cox’s Bazar camps.”

“Visitors, who were allowed to meet with their relatives on the island only once, said that those being held appeared desperate to return to the Cox’s Bazar camps,” HRW noted.

Quoting two visiting delegation members, the nonprofit said when one woman became frantic about seeing her brother again, Bangladesh navy officers beat her, causing her head to hit a wall.

“Most of the women I talked to said that their only wish was leave Bhasan Char and return to their families,” HRW quoted a member of delegation as saying.

London-based Amnesty International in a separate report said it spoke to two Rohingya women and one man in Bhashan Char together with another eight family members of 13 refugees who are currently on the island.

In two interviews, Amnesty stated that Rohingya refugees said they heard accounts of sexual harassment or abuse at the hands of police and navy officials on the island.

Amnesty urged the Bangladeshi authorities to conduct a full and thorough investigation into these allegations.

It said Rohingya refugees told its interviewers that they shared a room of roughly 50 square feet, just enough for one person, with two to five people.

There are 16 of these rooms in each shed and only two toilets. All they were provided with on arrival were a piece of clothing, a mosquito net, and a plate. Many of them have had their bedsheets stitched into clothing by some Rohingya women with sewing skills, Amnesty said.

Bangladesh Navy denied the allegations.

“These are completely baseless allegations,” Navy Commodore Mamun Chowdhury, who is also Project Director of Bhasan Char, told EFE.

“Bangladesh Navy is providing everything they need. When no country was taking them, upon instruction from the government, Bangladesh Navy rescued the group. Our infrastructure is not a jail, it is an accommodation. This accommodation has been made as per the UN standard,” he said.

The island, usually hit by monsoon floods, emerged from the sea about a decade ago. It covers an area of about 40 sq km, 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 on 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. EFE-EPA


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