Rohingya refugees disembark from a Bangladesh Navy ship to the island of Bashar Char in Noakhali on December 4, 2020. Stringer / AFP
Bangladesh transported greater than 1,600 Rohingya refugees to a low-lying island on Friday within the first part of a controversial deliberate relocation of 100,000 individuals.
Almost 1,000,000 Rohingya — most of whom fled a navy offensive in neighbouring Myanmar three years in the past — reside in squalid camps in southeastern Bangladesh. Any return to Myanmar seems unlikely for now.
Dhaka desires to maneuver 100,000 of the refugees to Bhashan Char, a silt island that critics say is susceptible to flooding and within the path of cyclones that continuously wreak havoc within the area.
Rights teams have alleged that a lot of these despatched within the first wave on Friday had been coerced into going with threats or sweeteners.
This was borne out by some relations that AFP spoke to at camps within the Cox’s Bazar district on Thursday as they stated tearful goodbyes to their kinfolk.
“They beat my son mercilessly and even smashed his teeth so that he agreed to go to the island,” stated Sufia Khatun, 60, who got here to see off her son and 5 different kinfolk.
At the United Nations, spokesman Stephane Dujarric stated there had been “some reports from the camps that some refugees may be feeling pressured into relocating” or had modified their minds about going.
“If so, they should be allowed to remain in the camps in Cox’s Bazar,” he stated.
But Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen referred to as the claims “a damn lie”, and stated the services on the island had been “much better” than within the camps.
‘All modern amenities’
Bangladesh has spent some $400 million from its personal coffers constructing shelters and a nine-foot (three-metre) flood embankment across the services.
The authorities stated the services are “strongly built with concrete foundation which can withstand natural disasters such as cyclones and tidal waves.”
The island “has all modern amenities, year-round fresh water, (a) beautiful lake and proper infrastructure and enhanced facilities,” the international ministry stated Friday.
“These include uninterrupted supply of electricity and water, agricultural plots, cyclone shelters, two hospitals, four community clinics, mosques, warehouses, telecommunication services, police station, recreation and learning centres, playgrounds, etc,” it stated.
In this aerial image taken on December 4, 2020, the Kutupalong camp for Rohingya refugees is pictured in Ukhia. AFP
Bangladeshi authorities say the relocation will ease congestion within the huge community of camps the place lethal landslides — in addition to violence by drug gangs and extremists — are frequent.
But it’s unclear whether or not the refugees will be capable to depart in the event that they want to.
The United Nations workplace in Bangladesh stated it had been prevented from independently assessing the “safety, feasibility and sustainability” of the island as a spot to reside.
The UN spokesman in New York echoed that declare, saying: “We have not been involved.”
“Any movement of refugees needs to be done voluntarily and in safety and dignity,” Dujarric stated.
Mohammad Jubaer, 28, who was on one of many ships with three relations on the three-hour sea journey from Chittagong to the island on Friday, stated he was glad to go.
“I hope there will be enough work for me in the island. I wish they would also bring my brother and his family to the island,” he informed AFP by cellphone.