Human rights groups have reacted strongly to plans by the United Nations to relocate thousands of displaced Rohingya refugees to a barren and threatened island in the Bay of Bengal.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has allegedly drawn up detailed plans, shared with the Bangladeshi government, to transport thousands of Rohingya from camps in Cox’s Bazar to the flood and cyclone-prone island of Bhasan Char “on a voluntary basis”.
Bangladesh has been under immense pressure following a huge influx of refugees following the Myanmar regime’s brutal repression of the Rohingya Muslims, an act concluded to have been carried out with “genocidal intent” by UN Investigators. While Dhaka may see the relocation of the refugees as a way to alleviate their own burden, many Rohingya are fearful of the move to the island, leading to claims that the proposals may develop into a forced relocation.
“What the hell is the WFP thinking? Bangladesh’s plan to move Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char looks like a human rights and humanitarian disaster in the making so UN agencies should be talking about how to stop this ill-considered scheme, not facilitate it.The reality is the Rohingya don’t want that one-way ticket to Bhasan Char because it promises to be a Rohingya Alcatraz, with freedom of movement restricted, health and other services limited, and no guarantees of survival if a typhoon hits and submerges the island”Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch (speaking to The Telegraph)
Bhasan Char is a featureless and totally flat island of silt that emerged from the sea just 20 years ago. It has never been inhabited and is both prone to flooding and vulnerable to frequent cyclones in the region. During a high tide there is the possibility that the island could be completely submerged.
Since August of 2017 over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s campaign of mass killings, sexual violence, and arson against Rohingya homes and businesses, a campaign that has been the culmination of decades of discrimination and repression.
Restrictions on movement and lack of access to basic health care have led to dire humanitarian conditions for those displaced by earlier waves of violence in 2012 and 2016