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The UN is calling on Bangladesh to gradually move the Rohingya to the Bay of Bengal – Radio Free Asia

The United Nations refugee agency is urging Bangladesh to slow down the relocation of Rohingya to a low-lying island as measures to protect residents from storms and floods have not been fully in place, UNHCR in Dhaka told BenarNews on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Minister said international agencies must support housing costs that could ultimately end up as 100,000 refugees on Bhashan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal. So far, the Bangladeshi government has covered that cost.

Charlie Goodlake, spokesman for the UN agency in Dhaka.

“At the same time, the United Nations team believes that it is important that the embankment expansion is being completed as soon as possible and that full specifications are completed, which, when completed, will reduce the risk of storm surge due to storms and floods on the island, ”Goodlake told BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA, in a statement.

There is also a need to put in place an emergency management plan for extreme weather events, including the stockpiling of essential goods and supplies on the island, UNHCR said.

“The United Nations group recommends to the government that any future resettlement will be gradual and phased, this will help ensure that the management structure, the facilities and the service available on Bhashan Char matches the needs of the Rohingya refugees living there, Goodlake said.

Since December, the government has moved a total of 18,304 Rohingya people out of crowded camps in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district. The detention center holds about 1 million refugees fleeing persecution in Rakhine state, next to Myanmar.

The government said it spent about US $ 280 million on housing construction, a large embankment to protect islanders from flooding and other infrastructure to ease the pressure on crowded camps. on land.

An official told BenarNews in December 2018 that the embankment would gradually be made 21 feet tall, although he did not say how tall the embankment was at that time.

Last December, the State Department said Bhashan Char was safe from tornadoes, as demonstrated during the deadly Amphan Cyclone in May 2020.

“Flood and shore protection measures with 12.1 km- [7.5 mile-] The revetment is long enough and taller than designed by [British firm] HR Wallingford protects the island from high tidal waves and tornadoes, ”the ministry said in a statement.

“This is complemented by the installation of a modern hydrological warning and monitoring system that can provide an early warning of any natural hazard and allow for advance evacuation.”

Rohingya children swing on the Bhashan Char island in Noakhali district, Bangladesh, March 13, 2021. [BenarNews]

Foundation for the Rohingya on the island

The Bangladeshi government wants international funds raised through the United Nations Joint Response Plan to also be used for the Rohingya in Bhashan Char, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Friday.

If the fund focuses solely on humanitarian efforts at Cox’s Bazar, the government will request a portion of the fund for the island facilities, he said.

“If the humanitarian agencies don’t support the Rohingya in Bhashan Char, we will claim 10% of that money,” Momen told BenarNews, even though he admitted he didn’t know the UNHCR was spending the money they had. obtained for the Rohingya and how they are. Reception community.

He said UN agencies have an obligation to provide services to the Rohingya no matter where refugees live. UN member states will not provide funds if humanitarian agencies do not service the Rohingya in Bhashan Char, he said.

In response, Goodlake, UNHCR spokesman Dhaka, said that if the UN “gets involved” in the island, then “any relevant funding request for Bhashan Char will need to be agreed to in close consultation. stakeholders, especially with the donor community and government. “

The U.N. team that visited the island last month said they “clearly” recognized the current humanitarian and protective needs of the Rohingya refugees who had been relocated to Bhashan Char, he said.

“Consequently, the UN proposed further discussions with the government about their future involvement in the Bhashan Char, including on policies governing the lives and well-being of refugees. Rohingya on the island, ”Goodlake said.

Momen’s comments on Bhashan Char’s funding follow months of criticism over Bangladesh’s plans to move the Rohingya to overseas.

International humanitarian organizations have expressed concerns about safety and on-site facilities on the island. Their fears were not alleviated by what Bangladesh’s supposed reluctance to allow the United Nations to conduct a technical assessment of the island.

But many of the Rohingya moving to Bhashan Char told BenarNews that they were delighted to have left the crowded Cox’s Bazar camps. They say that living conditions in Bhashan Char are better and that their children have plenty of space for them to play.

And now that a group of the United Nations and three other international organizations have visited the island, many Bangladeshi analysts believe any concerns about the island’s viability will be alleviated.

The UN team that visited Bhashan Char found that many Rohingya are engaged in constructive activities and feel optimistic about their lives there, Goodlake admits.

US special envoy John Kerry, who visited Bangladesh last week, praised Bangladesh for its “extraordinary” generosity in protecting refugees from Myanmar, and mentioned the decision. of Dhaka in relocating thousands of Rohingya to Bhashan Char.

Kerry, President Joe Biden’s climate special envoy, told reporters in Dhaka on April 9: “Bangladesh is one of the countries of great help, you’ve given them an island.

Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.



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