The United Nations refugee agency is urging Bangladesh to slow down the relocation of Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal until measures to protect residents from storms and floods are fully in place, BenarNews reported on friday.
Since December, the government has moved a total of 18,304 Rohingya from crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district, near the border with Myanmar, to Bhasan Char, an island about 34km offshore.
According to the report, a group from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited Bhasan Char in mid-March and acknowledged that the government made “extensive investment” in infrastructure and measures. protection on the flooded island, but further improvements are needed
“The United Nations team 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 ”UNHCR spokesman Charlie Goodlake told BenarNews.
In particular, Goodlake said the authorities needed to complete the flood protection embankment expansion before any more people could be relocated to the island, as cyclones frequently sweep across the Bay of Bengal. He also urged Dhaka to come up with an emergency management plan for natural disasters and extreme weather events, including the elimination of essential supplies.
Bangladesh is home to more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims, many of whom were forced across the border by violent Myanmar military attacks in 2016 and 2017, acts that investigators The United Nations later stated that “genocidal intentions. “
Given the burden that the refugee presence has inflicted on Bangladesh, the government is eager to start sending refugees back to Myanmar. However, a number of repatriation attempts have failed because many Rohingya refuse to leave, citing unrest that continues to take place inside Myanmar’s Rakhine State and expectations that they will suffer more violence and more discrimination when returning.
This is the context in which the Bhasan Char resettlement plan came into being. However, since its inception, the relocation plan has been controversial. The humanitarian staff stated that the island is susceptible to tornadoes and other extreme weather events, and accuse that some Those initially brought to Bhasan Char were forced or tricked into doing so, although the government insisted that the relocation was voluntary.
Bangladesh has denied the charges of forced money transfers. It also insists that Disaster risk is no different in Bangladesh, but the facilities on Bhasan Char are superior to those of Cox’s Bazar.
For all its controversy, the Bhasan Char plan hints at the enormous burden still being borne by Bangladesh, and the seemingly incurable nature of the refugee crisis. As Sayeed Ahmed wrote on The Diplomat this week, Dhaka is spend $ 1.2 billion per year to aid Rohingya refugees, and claims to have spent A $ 280 million prepares the Bhasan Char for its new residents. “While the international community is quick to criticize Bangladesh,” offers of help are much less frequent, “he argued.
The situation is compounded by the crisis that erupted since the Myanmar army’s coup in February, distracting the world from the Rohingya crisis and pushing Myanmar into an existing political crisis. signs of calming down.
As a result, more than a million Rohingya refugees find themselves caught between the eternal captivity of the camps and a military-controlled homeland whose actions forced them to flee in the first place. The voluntary repatriation target, which has been a priority for Bangladesh and many foreign partners since refugee camps began to flourish in 2017, seems less likely than any other time of the year. over the past year, making it more and more likely that alternative arrangements are likely to occur. must be considered.