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Bangladesh ships Rohingya refugees to an isolated island despite the objection

Refugees and humanitarian workers say some of the refugees had been coerced into going to the flood-prone island of Bhashan Char.


Bangladesh naval vessels transported some 1,600 Rohingya refugees towards an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal on Friday despite objections by refugees and humanitarian groups that some were being compelled.

Bangladesh says it is only shifting refugees who are ready to go to Bhasan Char and it will reduce continual overcrowding in centers that are home to more than 1 million Rohingyas; parts of a Muslim minority who have escaped neighbouring Myanmar.

Kutupalong   Rohingya refugee camps, Bangladesh/ AFP

But refugees and humanitarian labourers say some of the Rohingya had been forced into going to Bhashan Char a flood-prone island that arose from the sea 20 years ago.

A naval official asserted the Rohingya were aboard seven boats, with two more carrying allowances, that set out from the southern port of Chittagong.

Image source: AFP

Refugees were loaded across the decks of the naval boats on plastic chairs. Some brought umbrellas to safeguard from the sun on a voyage that takes numerous hours.

“The government is not taking anyone to Bhashan Char forcibly. We maintain this position,” asserted the Foreign Minister Abdul Momen.

But two Rohingya being relocated asserted that their names occurred on lists collected by government-appointed local leaders without their approval, while assistance workers said officials used warnings and enticements to stress people into going.

Image source: AP

“They have taken us here forcefully,” a 31-year-old man notified tearfully by phone as he got on a bus from the camps near Cox’s Bazar. “Three days ago, when I heard that my family is on the list, I ran away from the block, but yesterday I was caught and taken here,” he told.

Pictures taken from aboard one of the boats indicated refugees under the watch of uniformed sailors [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

An 18-year-old woman said her spouse had put their names on the list believing it was for food rations. He escaped when they were told to go to Bhasan Char, she said, amplifying that she is also concealing in the camp.

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They are more than 730,000 Rohingya who escaped Myanmar in 2017 interpreting a military-led crackdown that the United Nations said was enforced with a genocidal objective. Myanmar refutes genocide and says its armies were targeting Rohingya militants who assaulted police posts.

“Not one refugee should be moved until all human rights and humanitarian concerns have been resolved and genuine informed consent is assured,” announced Ismail Wolff, director of the Fortify Rights group.

Human Rights Watch explained it had surveyed 12 families whose names were on the lists but had not enrolled to go.

Image source: Reuters

Two assistance workers, who talked on condition of namelessness, said refugees had come under tension from government officials who used hardships and proposals of cash and other enticements to convince them to go to the island.

The United Nations said in an announcement it had been provided “limited information” about the relocations and was not active in preparations.


Bangladesh has created more than a thousand cinderblock lodging units on Bhasan for the Rohingya refugees.

More than 300 refugees were sent to the island earlier this year after numerous months at sea in an endeavour to flee  Bangladesh. Rights groups say they are being seized against their will and have complained of human rights crimes.

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