Bangladesh Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam has said that a ship carrying 1642 refugees was traveling to the island of Basan Sar, 40 kilometers (24 miles) off the coast near the city of Chittagong.
The Bangladeshi government has spent years building an island-wide shelter network to house 100,000 people currently living in vast refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, near the Myanmar border.
But human rights groups and refugees have been around for a long time People expressed concern about the safety of the uninhabited, low-lying island because it is often partially submerged during the rainy season and vulnerable to hurricanes.
Human Rights Watch described the island’s conditions as “poor” and the Rohingya could face a lack of adequate medical care. The group also expressed concern that refugees there may be denied freedom of movement, sustainable livelihood or education. It is also not clear if any role – if any – will be allowed by humanitarian agencies there.
“Without proper assessments of the conditions on the island and adequate information for refugees, the move has nothing to do with detaining the Rohingya people in a manner that violates international human rights obligations,” said Daniel Sullivan, the group’s senior human rights lawyer.
The Bangladeshi foreign minister explained that he did not understand why the aid agencies were opposed to the move and that the statements of persuasion were “completely baseless”.
“I didn’t get it,” Alam said. “Why do they oppose a better life when they have failed miserably in doing their job?”
The “limited” UN.
The government has been building facilities on Basan Char for years to put pressure on the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, home to about 1 million Rohingya refugees.
Many of the refugees fled Myanmar to Bangladesh in 2017, leading to the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordering Myanmar to protect the Rohingya population from genocide. Myanmar denies genocide allegations, and the military’s “permitting operations” were formal counter-terrorism operations.
“Based on the relevant, accurate and up-to-date information on Rohingya refugees, a free and informed decision on relocation to Basan Sar can be made,” the statement said.
“The relocation to Passanzar should precede comprehensive technical security assessments. These independent United Nations assessments will review the security, viability and sustainability of Passanzar as a place for refugees, as well as access to services on the island that review the security and assistance and infrastructure.”
On Thursday, 933 Rohingya refugees left camps in Cox’s Bazar for Chittagong, and more than 400 will travel on Friday, Alam said. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
The two groups are then expected to travel 2.5 hours on a naval ship to Basan Char.
Bangladesh Navy Commander Abdullah Al Mamun Chaudhry said the island could accommodate 100,000 people in 120 shelters.
Each dormitory can accommodate 800 to 1,000 people, with 12 feet by 14 feet (3.6 meters and 4.3 meters) of unit punk beds per family, he said.
The shelters are built 14 feet above ground level in case of “any hurricanes” and can withstand winds of up to 260 kilometers per hour (161 miles per hour), Chaudhry added. There are two 20-bed hospitals, community clinics and on-site medical staff, and three schools.
“We are ready in every aspect,” Chaudhry said. “We take care of food, medicine, safety.”
Fear of being forcibly removed
Bangladesh maintains that the relocation process will be voluntary, but many rights groups have raised concerns that it could force refugees.
Human Rights Watch said a dozen families were on the list of identified individuals whose names wanted to go, but they did not offer to relocate. Some of the refugees on the list have reportedly left for fear of being forcibly relocated.
“The Bangladeshi government is vehemently denying its promise to the UN that it will not transfer any refugees to the island of Basan until humanitarian experts give the green light,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “If the government has real confidence in the island’s habitat, they will be transparent and will not hastily avoid UN technical assessments.”
Fortified Rights reported that some Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar camps could be the first to be deported to Myanmar if they went to Basan by unselected Rohingya camp leaders.
Chaudhry said the families had “broken up” because the government had decided to return some of those individuals to Cox’s Bazar. He said many of the refugees on the island were women who wanted to be reunited with their relatives.