Bhasan Char to be like prison if Rohingyas shifted: HRW

Staff Correspondent . Dhaka | Update:

Satellite image time series of Bhasan Char camp development (October 2017 – March 2018). -- Courtesy: HRWMyanmar's Rohingyas, who are currently staying in camps in Cox's Bazar, may be isolated and suffer for lack of access to education and healthcare services, if they are taken to Bhasan Char, says Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Bhasan Char is a tiny island in the Bay of Bengal, made of accumulated silt.

HRW's Brad Adams wrote, although Bangladeshi authorities say there will be no forced relocations, there is little evidence that any of the refugees would be willing to move there.

“Bhashan Char will be like a prison,” Adams quoted a local journalist as saying.

Referring to humanitarian aid groups' concern about refugee health and safety in the Cox’s Bazar settlement, the HRW official said isolating them on Bhasan Char, with likely limited access to education and health services, could be even more problematic.

In the article, Adams mentioned that Bangladesh authorities say they will soon start relocating over 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char.

This is, he quoted officials as arguing, necessary to reduce pressure on the world’s largest refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar, where nearly 1.2 million Rohingya have fled to escape military atrocities in Myanmar.

The island is said to have been secured with embankments, and the homes and cyclone shelters are said to be better than anything available to millions of Bangladeshis.

"But they have yet to provide convincing assurances that the refugees will be safe there, and their freedom of movement and right to livelihood protected," Adams added.

He also quoted residents from nearby Hatiya Island as saying part of Bhasan Char is 'eroded by the monsoon every year'.

“In that time, we never dare go to that island, so how will thousands of Rohingya live there?”

Adams pointed out that when Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, warned that an ill-planned relocation would have the “potential to create a new crisis,” the government said resettling the Rohingya is an internal matter.

Minister AKM Mozammel Haq reportedly blamed nongovernmental organisations for highlighting safety and sustainability concerns.

"Dumping a battered and traumatized people on Bhasan Char to face yet another threat to their survival is not a solution," Adams said adding that Bangladesh should terminate the relocation plans unless or until independent experts determine that the island is suitable, and until the government ensures that refugees who consent to relocate there will be allowed freedom of movement on and off the island.

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