CHITTAGONG: More than 1,750 Rohingya Muslims were transferred to a notorious island in the Bay of Bengal by the Bangladeshi authorities on Friday amid protests made by refugees already there.
Officials said more than 3,000 Rohingya will be taken from congested camps on Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar by boat to Bhashan Char Island on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday, a Navy ship on its top deck filled with migrants sailed sail from the port city of Chittagong.
Since a Myanmar military crackdown on the Muslim minority, Bangladesh has struggled to deal with more than 700,000 Rohingyas who fled over the border in 2017. That added to the 300,000 in the camps already.
With the new immigrants, the island of 13,000 acres (53 square kilometres) will be some 7,000 Rohingya.
The government said about 100,000 people from the camps could settle on Bhashan Char.
Rights activists state that many of the Rohingya have been relocated against their will and have also raised questions about the survival of the island, which during the cyclone season is constantly flooded.
Before the cyclone season begins in April, officials want to relocate all of the new residents.
Bhashan Char is located in an area where over 700,000 people have died in storms in the past 50 years, a quiet strip that did not exist two decades ago.
The new inhabitants often complain about the absence of jobs.
A reporter talked to four island refugees who expressed dissatisfaction at the prospects for jobs.
Compared to Kutupalong camp, it is a better life for us in Bhashan Char. “But some people are still unhappy,” said the 38-year-old Rohingya, who, fearing for his life, did not give a name.
“On this island, the problem is that we can not work freely and earn money.” Relief organisations in the refugee camps recruit more workers and there is local trade. Officials say the authorities have launched Rohingya exchange and skills training programmes.
The United Nations insists it should be voluntary to move because it has not been interested in the process.
Spokeswoman Louise Donovan said that on Bhashan Char, the UN wanted to test “safety and sustainability,” but was not granted permission.