Rohingya refugees travel in a naval ship to
be transported to an isolated island in the
Bay of Bengal, in Chittagong, Bangladesh
on Tuesday. (AP/PTI)
OFFICIALS in Bangladesh sent a second group of Rohingya refugees to an isolated island in the Bay of Bengal on Monday despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process. More than 30 buses carrying about 1,500 refugees left their camps in Cox’s Bazar district on the way to the island, a Government official said. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media, said that the refugees will stay overnight in a temporary shelter in the south-eastern city of Chattogram and are expected to reach Bhasan Char island on naval vessels on Tuesday at noon.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees left Cox’s Bazar voluntarily under Government management. Authorities say, the refugees were selected for relocation based on their willingness, and that no pressure was applied on them. But several human rights and activist groups say some refugees have been forced to go to the island, located 21 miles (34 kilometers) from the mainland.
The island surfaced only 20 years ago and was not previously inhabited. It was regularly submerged by monsoon rains but now has flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals and mosques built at a cost of more than USD 112 million by the Bangladesh Navy. The island’s facilities are designed to accommodate 1,00,000 people, just a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar and are currently living in crowded, squalid refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district.