Rohingya refugees have said they will not accept a plan proposed by Bangladesh to relocate to a remote island, for fear it is unsafe.
“We will not find a way to move to a safer place if the island, which is surrounded on all sides by water, gets flooded,” said Rohingya refugee Masuda Begum, who lives in Jamtoli refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. “We do not want to go to that island.”
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced weeks ago that tens of thousands of Rohingya would be transferred to the island of Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal at the end of the ongoing monsoon season.
Rights groups have cautioned that only refugees who voluntarily agree in a fully informed, transparent, and open consultation process should be considered for relocation.
“Any attempts to force people to go to the island, or create conditions requiring movement there for any reason, is totally unacceptable and will result in a major outcry by the world community against Bangladesh,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Asia Division of Human Rights Watch.
“We knew from many sources that most parts of the island often get drowned when tidal waves hit,” Rohingya refugee Nurul Kader told the Voice of America (VOA).
“For survival, around us, we need farmlands and forests which do not exist in that island. Bangladesh is a congested country. Yet, people have not moved to the island to set up villages in Bhasan Char. It’s clear the island is unsafe and unlivable,” he added.
Nobi Hossain, another Rohingya who lives in Jamtoli refugee camp, said he did not know anyone who is willing to move to Bhasan Char.
“In case of something like flood takes place here [in Cox’s Bazar], we can move to safer places in other hills or camps. But, if such natural disaster hits that low-lying island, we will find no place to escape and there will be a very big disaster. Also, if Bangladesh government relocates us to this place, we will feel like being exiled in a remote island,” Hossain told VOA. “We do not want to go to Bhasan Char.”
More than 700,000 members of Rohingya Muslim community have fled to Bangladesh since an August 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, with many testifying about violence, persecution, killings and burning of their homes. The United Nations has described Myanmar’s treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Source: International Islamic News Agency