Thousands of Rohingya are currently being brought to an inhospitable island that is regularly flooded. Muslims are persecuted by the military in their home country of Myanmar.
Several human rights organizations have called for an immediate end to the resettlement of members of the Rohingya minority in Bangladesh to the island of Bhasan Char. The Society for Threatened Peoples and the European Rohingya Council demand that Bangladesh must provide for the refugees in a humane manner. In addition, the pressure on the government of Myanmar must be increased so that it can implement the promised democratic reforms and allow the refugees to return.
Bangladesh began resettlement on Thursday. Every hour, refugees were driven in convoys of ten buses each under police protection to the port city of Chittagong, from where they translate to the island in the Bay of Bengal, according to local media. A total of 100,000 Rohingya are to be relocated from the camps, which are overcrowded with 750,000 people, to the island, where the army has built barracks.
Island with new refugee camp threatened by weather disasters
According to the The Society for Threatened Peoples consultant for genocide prevention and responsibility to protect, Jasna Causevic, observers on site speak of "worrying signs of coercion and false promises by the authorities". The resettlements continued despite concerns about ongoing human rights violations against the 300 Rohingya previously held on the island. The Bangladeshi authorities rescued her from a ship in May this year and allegedly brought her to Bhasan Char for quarantine. Since then, they have not been allowed to leave the island.
The parliamentary majority that Myanmar's Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi had secured in the most recent election means that the repatriation of the Rohingya "is a long way off," said Causevic. In order for them to get their civil rights back, an amendment to the constitution would be necessary. In 2017, Myanmar's army displaced around 700,000 members of the Muslim minority.
The island of Bhasan Char was only created in 1999 by the accumulation of sediments from the Meghna river, which flows into the Bay of Bengal. Human rights and environmental experts have criticized the plans to house refugees there, as the island is unstable and, due to its location, prone to devastation from hurricanes. The 40 square kilometer island is regularly flooded during the annual monsoons between June and September.
United Nations speaks of genocide
The poor infrastructure on the island does not offer access to education and medical care; according to human rights groups, the nearest hospital can only be reached by a three-hour boat trip. The United Nations recently announced that it would not be involved in the preparation of the resettlement or the identification of the refugees.
Myanmar's military and the government under Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi have come under international criticism for the persecution of the Muslim minority. The United Nations calls the persecution of the Rohingya an ongoing genocide and charges the Myanmar military with war crimes. The Rohingya have not been recognized as a minority in Myanmar since 1983 and therefore have no right to citizenship.