Social Issues

UN refugee agency chief meets Rohingyas on Bangladesh island

Dhaka, May 24 (EFE).- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on Tuesday visited Bangladesh’s remote Bhasan Char island to meet Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh government officials, aiming to to offer solutions to the minority community which has fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar.

The UN refugee agency chief arrived on Tuesday morning at the island situated in the Bay of Bengal, where around 23,000 Rohingyas have been resettled By Bangladeshi authorities to decongest the refugee camps in southeastern Cox’s Bazar district.

Grandi is expected to meet the director of the Bhasan Char relocation project and officials of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner’s office, before holding a meeting with the refugees living on the island, a UNHCR official told EFE on the condition of anonymity.

A trip to the island had been a key part of the agenda for Grandi, who arrived in Bangladesh on Saturday for a trip aimed at seeking assistance for the Rohingya.

“I came to Bangladesh because this is such a priority partner country for UNHCR and the Rohingya situation is such a priority crisis,” Grandi said in a video message after Sunday’s visit to the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

This is the first visit by the UN refugee agency chief to refugee camps in Bangladesh since the pandemic began, following an earlier trip in March 2019.

Bangladesh is home to around 926,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled neighboring Myanmar, including around 728,000 who escaped a wave of violence and persecution by the Myanmar military launched in August 2017, a campaign that triggered allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocidal intent.

As the massive refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district were overrun by Rohingyas, Bangladesh authorities established an alternative camp site at Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal, despite criticism due to the alleged lack of freedom to leave the camp..

The project initially aimed to relocate around 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char – a previously unpopulated island spread over around 40 square kilometers which often witnessed flooding – and starting from December 2020, nearly 23,000 Rohingyas have been transferred to the site.

In October 2021, Bangladesh signed an agreement with the UN to provide humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas on the island, offering them protection, education, professional training, livelihood means and healthcare, aiming to improve their living standards and preparing them for a possible return to Myanmar in future. EFE

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