More Rohingya sent to Bangladesh island, with hopes for future, ducks, chickens
BHASAN CHAR, Bangladesh: Bangladesh moved a second group of Rohingya Muslim refugees to a low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday, despite opposition from rights groups worried about the new site’s vulnerability to storms.
The United Nations says it has not been involved in the relocation but urged the government to ensure no refugee is forced to move to Bhasan Char island, which only emerged from the sea 20 years ago.
The Bangladesh navy took the 1,804 Rohingya to the island in five ships, with the refugees sitting on wooden benches on deck, some clutching ducks, pigeons and chickens in bamboo baskets and wearing orange life vests and masks against the coronavirus.
A first group of 1,642 Rohingya, members of a minority group who have fled from violence in Myanmar, were relocated from their camps near the Myanmar border to the isolated island earlier in the month.
The move has faced opposition, especially from aid groups worried about a disaster in a country that regularly faces severe weather, especially along its coast.
In 1991, nearly 143,000 people were killed when a cyclone whipped up a 4.5-metre (15-foot) tidal surge.
The government has built a 2-metre (6.5 feet) high embankment for 12-km (7.5 mile) to protect the island along with housing for 100,000 people. It dismisses the risks.
“The island is completely safe,” Foreign Minister Abdul Momen told Reuters in the capital, Dhaka.
Upon reaching the island, navy personnel on a jetty helped the refugees ashore, many of them with sacks of belongings slung over their shoulders.
“Bhasan Char is better,” said one middle-aged man who arrived with his wife and three children from a refugee camp of bamboo and plastic shelters packed across muddy hills near the Myanmar border, where some one million Rohingya live. - Reuters