Rohingya Vision

Bangladesh plans to move Rohingya refugees to island in the south

A Rohingya man carries his grandson in a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photograph: AM Ahad/AP

Bangladesh plans to move Rohingya refugees to island in the south
May 28
03:00 2015

Bangladesh plans to relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees who have spent years in camps near the Burmese border to a southern island.

The government has started planning the move to Hatiya Island in the Bay of Bengal in a plan backed by the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, according to a government official, Amit Kumar Baul.

“The relocation of the Rohingya camps will definitely take place,” said Baul, the head of the government’s Myanmar refugee cell. “So far, informal steps have been taken according to the PM’s directives.”

A Rohingya leader urged the government to rethink, saying the plan would only make life worse for the refugees, many of whom have been languishing in the camps for years. “We want the government and international organisations to resolve our issue from here,” said Mohammad Islam, who lives in one of the camps.

Bangladesh is home to 32,000 registered Rohingya refugees who are sheltering in two camps in the south-eastern district of Cox’s Bazar. The Muslim Rohingya leave Burma largely to escape discriminatory treatment by the Buddhist majority.

The UN refugee agency, which has been helping the refugees in the camps since 1991, said such a scheme would have to be voluntary to succeed. “The success of the plan would depend on what will be on offer in the new location and if the refugees would like to be there,” said a UNHCR spokeswoman, Onchita Shadman.

A forced relocation would be “very complex and controversial”, she said.

Baul said the move was partly motivated by concerns the camps were holding back tourism in Cox’s Bazar, home to a 125km-long sandy beach. “The government has been giving importance to the tourism sector. Therefore, a plan to relocate them to an isolated area is under way.”

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