Dhaka, May 21 (EFE).- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on Saturday kicked off a five day official visit to Bangladesh seeking assistance for the Rohingya refugees, with scheduled visits to camps in southeastern parts of the country where the community has been given shelter as well as the remote Bhasan Char island.
“During his visit to the camps and to Bhasan Char, Mr. Grandi will meet with Rohingya refugees to discuss their needs, challenges and hopes for the future,” the UNHCR said in a statement on Saturday as the high commissioner landed in Dhaka.
A UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Regina de la Portilla, told EFE that Grandi was set to visit the island on Tuesday if weather conditions remained agreeable.
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.
As per the statement, Grandi would also meet Bangladesh government representatives to “discuss the ongoing response for Rohingya refugees,” and “highlight the need for sustained international support when meeting with key donors and partners who support the humanitarian response.”
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 has resulted in allegations of ethnic cleansing and genocidal intent.
As massive refugee camps in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district were overrun with Rohingyas, Bangladeshi authorities set up the Bhasan Char island in the Bay of Bengal as an alternative site for the refugees, 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