Authorities in Bangladesh despatched the primary group of greater than 1,500 Rohingya refugees to an remoted island on Friday regardless of calls by human rights teams for a halt to the method.

The 1,642 refugees boarded seven Bangladeshi naval vessels within the port of Chittagong for the journey to Bhasan Char, in accordance with an official who couldn’t be named in accordance with native follow.

After a few three-hour journey they arrived on the island, which was as soon as often submerged by monsoon rains however now has flood safety embankments, homes, hospitals and mosques constructed at a price of greater than $112 million US by the Bangladesh navy. Situated 34 kilometres from the mainland, the island surfaced solely 20 years in the past and was by no means inhabited.

Saleh Noman, a Bangladeshi journalist who traveled with the refugees, instructed The Related Press by telephone from the island that the refugees got rice, eggs and rooster for lunch after their physique temperatures had been measured by well being staff as a coronavirus precaution. Earlier than they boarded the ships they had been additionally given face masks to guard in opposition to COVID-19.

The island’s services are constructed to accommodate 100,000 individuals, only a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who’ve fled waves of violent persecution of their native Myanmar and are presently dwelling in crowded, squalid refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district.

The United Nations has voiced concern that refugees be allowed to make a “free and informed decision” about whether or not to relocate to the island within the Bay of Bengal.

Rohingya refugees had been transported on a Bangladeshi naval vessel to Bhasan Char, or floating island, within the Bay of Bengal. (The Related Press)

The director of infrastructure growth on Bhasan Char, Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, instructed reporters on the island that the worldwide neighborhood has nothing to fret about relating to the security of the refugees.

He mentioned he expects that the UN and others can be satisfied concerning the total preparations after visiting the island. Requested when that will be, he answered that the federal government is engaged on it.

On Thursday, 11 passenger buses carrying the refugees left Cox’s Bazar on the best way to the island. They camped in a single day in class buildings within the southeastern metropolis of Chittagong. Authorities in Cox’s Bazar didn’t say how the refugees had been chosen for relocation.

About 700,000 Rohingya fled to the camps in Cox’s Bazar after August 2017, when the navy in Buddhist-majority Myanmar started a harsh crackdown on the Muslim group following an assault by insurgents. The crackdown included rapes, killings and the torching of hundreds of houses, and was termed ethnic cleaning by international rights teams and the UN.

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Overseas media haven’t been permitted to go to the island.

Contractors say its infrastructure is sort of a trendy township, with multifamily concrete houses, faculties, playgrounds and roads. It additionally has solar-power services, a water provide system and cyclone shelters.

Refugees reportedly really feel pressured to relocate, UN says

Worldwide assist businesses and the UN have vehemently opposed the relocation because it was first proposed in 2015, expressing worry {that a} huge storm might overwhelm the island and endanger hundreds of lives.

The UN mentioned in an announcement Wednesday that it has not been concerned in preparations for the relocation or the collection of refugees and has restricted details about the general plan.

“The United Nations takes this opportunity to highlight its longstanding position that Rohingya refugees must be able to make a free and informed decision about relocating to Bhasan Char based upon relevant, accurate and updated information,” it mentioned.

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric mentioned Friday that they “have heard some reports from the camps that some refugees may be feeling pressured into relocating to the island of Bhasan Char or may have changed their initial views about relocation and no longer wish to move.”

“If so,” he mentioned, “they should be allowed to remain in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.”

A well being employee checks the temperature of the coming Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char. (Saleh Noman/The Related Press)

Dujarric mentioned the UN has additionally seen “troubling images of some distressed refugees” throughout Thursday’s relocation and has shared its issues with Bangladesh authorities.

“Our longstanding position, which bears repeating, is that comprehensive technical and protection assessments to evaluate the safety and sustainability of life on Bhasan Char should take place before any relocation,” Dujarric mentioned. “That’s essential for us in terms of providing a way forward for any UN engagement on this process.”

Amnesty Worldwide and Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the federal government to cancel the relocation plan.

Camps overcrowded, however most worry returning to Myanmar

The present refugee camps close to the city of Cox’s Bazar are overcrowded and unhygienic. Illness and arranged crime are rampant. Schooling is proscribed and refugees usually are not allowed to work.

Nonetheless, most Rohingya are unwilling to return to Myanmar attributable to security issues. Bangladeshi officers did not have an estimate of what number of refugees can be prepared to be relocated to the island.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has repeatedly instructed the UN and different worldwide companions that her administration would seek the advice of them earlier than making a closing resolution on the relocation, and that no refugees can be compelled to maneuver.

Bangladesh tried to begin sending refugees again to Myanmar underneath a bilateral framework final November, however nobody was prepared to go.

The refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, are overcrowded and unhygienic, however most Rohingya are unwilling to return to Myanmar out of worry for his or her security. (Shafiqur Rahman/The Related Press)

The Rohingya usually are not acknowledged as residents in Myanmar, rendering them stateless, they usually face different types of state-sanctioned discrimination.

A UN-sponsored investigation in 2018 beneficial the prosecution of Myanmar’s high navy commanders on prices of genocide, warfare crimes and crimes in opposition to humanity for the violence in opposition to the Rohingya.

Myanmar is defending itself within the Worldwide Court docket of Justice within the Hague, Netherlands, after the West African nation of Gambia introduced a case backed by the Group for Islamic Cooperation, Canada and the Netherlands over the crackdown.

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