Rohingyas protest on Bangladesh island during UN officials’ visit

Dhaka, May 31 (EFE)- Hundreds of Rohingya refugees on Monday protested on Bangladesh’s Bhashan Char island demanding cash aid and jobs during a visit by officials of the United Nations refugee agency, the police said.

“Some 500 to 600 Rohingyas held a demonstration when officials from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) arrived. They were demanding cash assistance and work for them,” the officer-in-charge of the Bhasan Char police station, Alamgir Hossain, told EFE.

He alleged that the refugees broke glass in some warehouses by throwing rocks but said that no arrests had been made.

Although the police have not reported clashes or injuries to the protesters, the UNHCR expressed concern over the day’s events.

“We are deeply concerned to learn of reports of refugees who have been injured during today’s events on the island. We regret that those affected reportedly include children and women,” UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, Louise Donovan, said in a statement to EFE.

The agency said it would seek more information on the refugees’ safety and request medical attention for them.

UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner (Protection) Gillian Triggs and Assistant High Commissioner (Operations) Rauf Mazou met refugees at the remote island located in the Bay of Bengal and listened to their grievances on Monday.

The two senior officials had arrived in Bangladesh on Sunday on a short visit and are set to visit Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district on Tuesday before returning to Dhaka to meet senior officials, Donovan said.

The Bangladeshi government has so far relocated around 20,000 refugees to Bhashan Char.

Rights groups have expressed concerns over conditions on the previously uninhabited island, which is prone to monsoon floods and cyclones.

Last month nonprofit Human Rights Watch had reported that Bangladesh security forces arrested and beat up at least a dozen refugees while they were trying to leave the island, also restricting their freedom of movement subsequently.

Bangladesh officials have defended relocating Rohingyas to the Island, saying it was necessary to decongest the massive overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Plans to relocate around 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char – spread over around 40 square kilometers – were first announced in 2017, although the process was delayed due to international pressure until December 2020, when the first thousand refugees were transferred.

Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence launched by the Myanmar military in August 2017, which has been termed ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the UN, while international courts are investigating the incidents for crimes against humanity.

The two countries have twice tried to roll out repatriation of the members of the mainly Muslim minority, but the attempts have failed as the refugees have refused to return until Myanmar guarantees citizenship and security on their native land.

The Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar has cast fresh doubts over the possibility of Rohingyas returning in near future to their homes in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine. EFE


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