Bangladesh transfers Rohingya to cyclone-battered island

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Bangladesh began on Thursday the controversial transfer of more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char Island, a sedimentary formation regularly battered by cyclones and subject to flooding, which UN and human rights groups consider it dangerous.

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees, a persecuted Muslim minority in Burma, live in a network of miserable camps in southern Bangladesh.

Some 922 Rohingya left camps in Cox's Bazar (southeast) aboard buses bound for the port of Chittagong (east) before being transferred to Bangladeshi navy ships on Friday to Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal. .

<q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label": "Français"}, "value": {"html": "Twenty buses left in two convoys with 423people within 10first buses and 499within 10others, "," text ":" Twenty buses left in two convoys with 423 people in the first 10 buses and 499 in the other 10, "}} 'lang =" fr”>Twenty buses left in two convoys with 423 people in the first 10 buses and 499 in the other 10, Regional police chief Anwar Hossain told AFP, adding that other buses were standing by to leave later today Thursday.

Dozens of people wait in the open air, outside a camp protected by barbed wire.

Dozens of Rohingyas prepare to take buses to begin their journey to Bhasan Char Island.

Photo: The Canadian Press / AP / Shafiqur Rahman

The Bangladesh navy has built shelters on the island to accommodate at least 100,000 Rohingya, as well as a three-meter high dike to protect them from flooding.

According to locals, strong tides flooded the island a few years ago and cyclones, which regularly hit the area, are likely to cause storm surges of four or five meters.

Earlier, officials told AFP that around 2,500 Rohingya were to be established on the 52 km island.2 during this first transfer phase.

For its part, the United Nations office in Bangladesh issued a terse statement on Thursday assuring no not involved in this relocation process on which he had received little information.

Aerial view of collective residences still uninhabited.

The facilities built on Bhasan Char Island by the Bangladesh Navy are able to accommodate at least 100,000 Rohingya.

Photo: The Canadian Press / AP / Saleh Noman

United Nations agencies, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Program (WFP), expressed their concern to the Bangladeshi government in November 2019, arguing that the island was isolated and prone to flooding.

A UN official then told AFP that UN agencies could not support a movement for which (they) did not have technical information.

Also read:

  • In the world of Rohingya refugee camps – A report by our correspondent Anyck Béraud
  • The distress of the Rohingya as told by humanitarians
  • Myanmar must prevent Rohingya genocide, Hague orders

Some 750,000 Rohingya Muslims fled an ethnic cleansing in western Burma in 2017 led by the army and Buddhist militias. They joined the ranks of the 200,000 Rohingya who have already taken refuge in Bangladesh, a legacy of previous waves of violence.

According to human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, some refugees are being forced to leave, which Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen denied on Thursday. That's a fucking lie, he told AFP.

<q data-attributes = '{"lang": {"value": "fr", "label": "Français"}, "value": {"html": "The government of Bangladesh has decided to drive around 23000volunteer families in Bhasan Char "," text ":" The government of Bangladesh has decided to drive around 23,000 volunteer families to Bhasan Char "}} 'lang =" en”>The government of Bangladesh decided to drive around 23,000 volunteer families to Bhasan Char, said the minister, adding that this decision had been taken because of the risk of landslides in the camps, built on the hillsides and extremely overcrowded. They will be better off on the island, he insisted.

People walk on a small dirt road with nearly thousands of homes. People have an open umbrella over their head.

Rohingya in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, August 23, 2018

Photo: Getty Images / AFP / Dibyangshu Sarkar

Members of a Rohingya family in Ukhia where the transit camp is located told AFP on Thursday that they were forcibly displaced.

They beat my son mercilessly and even broke his teeth so that he would agree to go to the island, said Soufia Khatun, 60. I came here to see him and his family, probably for the last time, she added in tears.

Hafez Ahmed, 17, came hoping to reunite with his brother and family to say goodbye to them. My brother had been missing for the past two days. Then we learned that he was here, before he left for the island. He doesn't go of his own free will, he told AFP.

The massive influx of refugees has led to the creation of camps where dire poverty reigns, which the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated, allowing drug trafficking to flourish.

UNHCR estimates that 860,000 Rohingya live in Bangladesh in camps close to the border with Burma.

Some 150,000 others have taken refuge in other countries in the region. About 600,000 still live in Burma.

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