Dhaka, 04 December 2020:
- In the face of growing concern over the extreme congestion in the camps of Cox’s Bazar and to avert any risk of death due to landslides and other unwarranted incidents, the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has decided to relocate, in phases, 1,00,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char. Accordingly, in the first phase, more than 1600 Rohingyas, who expressed their willingness voluntarily for relocation, have been shifted to Bhashan Char today.
- The relocation has become imperative to de-congest the over-crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar that have temporarily been accommodating nearly a million Rohingyas with many thousands born each year. The deteriorating security situation due to prolonged stay of these frustrated people in Cox’s Bazar also compelled the GOB to come up with a contingency plan and develop Bhashan Char from its own budgetary allocation. Accordingly, the Government invested more than USD 350 million to develop the island.
- The island of 13,000 acres has all modern amenities, year-round fresh water, a beautiful lake and proper infrastructure and enhanced facilities. These include uninterrupted supply of electricity and water, agricultural plots, cyclone shelters, two hospitals, four community clinics, mosques, warehouses, telecommunication services, police station, recreation and learning centers, playgrounds, etc. In contrast to the makeshift structures of the camps in Cox’s Bazar, the accommodation in Bhashan Char is strongly-built with concrete foundation which can withstand natural disasters such as cyclones and tidal waves. Super Cyclone AMPHAN proved the strength of the structures of Bhashan Char. Contrary to the apprehension of some quarters about the feasibility of the island, Bhashan Char stood firm against the massive storm. Despite the heightened tidal wave, all the 1440 houses and 120 shelter stations in the island remained unharmed. The island is connected with the mainland through good waterways communication.
- The Government of Bangladesh has ensured adequate supply of food along with proper sanitation and medical facilities for Rohingyas in Bhashan Char. Proper hospitals with highly qualified health professionals, adequate COVID testing and treatment facilities are in place. In addition to Government agencies, around 22 NGOs are already there to extend all possible support to the relocated Rohingyas. Adequate security has been ensured in the island by deployment of police personnel, including female police. The area is fully covered with CCTV cameras.
- On the relocation, GOB’s position was very clear and transparent from the very beginning that any relocation would be entirely on a voluntary basis. Accordingly, a good number of Rohingya representatives undertook a “go and see” visit to Bhashan Char to see the facilities and make an independent and informed choice. A number of NGOs and journalists also visited the island. All of them expressed their high satisfaction at the available facilities in Bhashan Char. A media team and a group of senior journalists are already in Bhashan Char. More importantly, the relocation was preceded by adequate preparations and consultations held with different stakeholders. Several rounds of discussions, based on the queries of the United Nations, were also arranged and we hope that the international community and the United Nations, as per its mandate, will be involved in the process very soon.
- It may be mentioned that the relocation is a part of the broader plan of repatriation which is the only priority for the Government of Bangladesh. Skill development and livelihood opportunities that the Rohingyas would be able to avail in Bhashan Char would prepare them for their reintegration in the Myanmar society on return. The types of economic activities such as fishing, agriculture, goat/livestock rearing, etcthat they used to pursue in Rakhine state is available in Bhashan Char.
- When the persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar were fleeing en mass from the violence, persecution and atrocities in the hands of their own people in their own land, it was Bangladesh who, purely out of humanitarian gesture, responded immediately and opened her borders and thus saved nearly a million of precious lives. The generous people of Bangladesh offered all kinds of assistance to these persecuted Myanmar nationals before any international humanitarian agency stepped in. We set another unique example of humanity in the world by developing a modern island to temporarily accommodate some of these persecuted Rohingyas.
- The Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals and they must return to Myanmar. The Government of Bangladesh is doing its best for the safety and security of these temporarily sheltered Myanmar nationals. At this stage, it is only practical that the international community including the United Nations fulfill their responsibility and meaningfully engage with Myanmar to commence repatriation, which is the only durable solution of this crisis. At the same time, we urge all to exercise utmost caution not to undermine or misinterpret the genuine efforts of the Government of Bangladesh. We would encourage human rights groups to put their efforts in creating conducive environment inside Myanmar for their quick, safe and dignified repatriation to their land of origin, Myanmar.