Rohingya refugees en route to the Bangladeshi island of Bhasan Char (File Photo, Image credit: The New York Times)

Outcry over shifting of Rohingya refugees to Bay of Bengal island

The decision of Bangladesh government to shift about one lakh Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazaar to Bhasan Char, a newly created island formed by sedimentation has evoked international criticism. There are in all eight lakh Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar living in Cox’s Bazaar. Though Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2018 said that it would be a temporary measure her minister said recently that those settled in this island would not be allowed to leave. He said that they would only be allowed to return to Myanmar.

Yanghee Lee, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation, who visited the island in 2019 expressed her fear whether the island was really worth living or not. Besides, she said that relocating them without their approval will only exacerbate the problems.

Reports said that the first batch of 1642 refugees have arrived on the island on December 4.

Out of the 8 lakh Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in 2016 after a brutal crackdown by the army, Bangladesh has decided to shift 1 lakh of them to Bhasan Char. It needs to be stated that there had been an international condemnation after the Myanmar government’s action at the time. Human Rights organisations have already criticized the role played by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in this regard. On her part, Ms. Suu Kyi had told a media organization in April 2017 that: “I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.”

In 2018, Amnesty International, citing the situation in Myanmar, stripped her of its highest award, the Ambassador of Conscience Award.

Anyway, much of the island of Bhasan Char is mud flat and is extremely prone to flooding in the season of monsoon or whenever there is a high tide. Only time will tell whether the relocation of the refugees materializes or not.

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