Saturday, March 16, 2019

Rohingya Refugees' Misery Continues

Bangladesh plans to re-locate around 100,000 Rohingya in 1,440 buildings it has built on the island , a small, sediment island at the mouth of the Meghna River, in the Bay of Bengal, that is vulnerable to flooding and cyclones. In early 2018, Bangladesh began constructing roads, shelters and floodwalls on the island, and it has spent an estimated $280 million (€247 million) completing the project. On Bhashan Char, a 13-kilometer (8-mile) long flood defense embankment surrounds the refugee barracks, and officials say it will stop tidal surges if a cyclone hits.

Shahed Shafiq, a local journalist who visited Bhashan Char a few months ago, says that the island is far from habitable. He points out that even during a normal high tide, most parts of the island are submerged. "The island is uneven and even newly constructed roads go under water during high tide," he told DW. "Any cyclone could wash away the island easily." Shafiq also pointed out that the island is located in the Bay of Bengal far away from the mainland. "It takes more than three hours to reach the island by a trawler, and the sea is often rough, which makes the journey risky," he added.
A top UN rights expert visited the island and said she wasn't convinced it is "truly habitable."

"Ill-planned relocations without the consent of the refugees have the potential to create a new crisis," said Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, who visited the island in January.
"Ever since the relocation plan was unveiled, many refugees have shown their unwillingness to move there," Nay San Lwin, a Rohingya activist based in Germany, told DW.  "If anyone is moved there, it would be by force," he added. "I have spoken with many representatives of the refugees and no one has shown interest. They want to stay where they are until they can go back to their homeland with protection and full rights," Lwin said. Nay San Lwin said that the compound built on Bhashan Char was a "prison camp" for refugees because of its remote location. For Lwin, keeping Rohingya refugees near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border would be a better option.

"It's up to Bangladesh to decide where we will keep the refugees," said senior government minister Mozammel Huq.

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