Bangladesh has started moving a second group of Rohingya Muslim refugees to a low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal.
- A first group were relocated to Bhasan Char earlier in the month
- The Bangladeshi Government built an embankment to protect the island
- It says the Island is safe and the Rohingya are being relocated voluntarily
There has been opposition from human rights groups who are worried about the new site’s vulnerability to floods.
The United Nations said it was not involved in the relocation but urged the Government to ensure no refugee is forced to move to Bhasan Char island, which only emerged from the sea 20 years ago.
“We are ready to receive the new arrivals,” Navy Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury said.
More than 1,804 Rohingya — members of a minority group who have fled from Myanmar — will be moved in total between seven ships.
A first group of more than 1,600 Rohingya, were relocated from their rickety camps near the Myanmar border to Bhasan Char earlier in the month.
‘Questionable’ relocation process
Storms regularly hit the Bangladesh coast. In 1991, nearly 143,000 people were killed when a cyclone whipped up a 4.5-metre tidal surge.
The Government has built a 12-kilometre embankment to protect the island along with housing for 100,000 people.
It dismisses the risks.
“The island is completely safe,” Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said.
The Government also said the relocation was voluntary but some refugees from the first group spoke about being coerced to go.
Human rights group Amnesty International has expressed concern.
“[A] lack of transparency in the consultation process with refugees, and allegations from within the community about cash incentives being offered to Rohingya families to relocate to Bhasan Char as well as use of intimidation tactics are making the relocation process questionable,” the group said.
Two Rohingya men on board one of the ships heading to the island from the port of Chittagong said they were moving to their new home voluntarily.
One said he was joining relatives already there while the other was moving with his wife and six children.
“There is so much suffering and conflict in the camp,” said one of the men.
Their names have been withheld given the controversy around the move among the community, with many keen to stay on the mainland.