The Bangladesh government is in a fix. While the government wants to shift some of the Rohingya refugees from the Cox’s Bazaar to Bhashan Char, a remote, uninhabited island situated 21 nautical miles away from the shore.
As reported by the Dhaka Tribune, the fate of the Tk 2,300 crore being undertaken by the Bangladesh Navy seems uncertain as the government and the international community including the UN are not able to reach an agreement of relocating about 1,00,000 Rohingyas from the refugee camp to the island. While the international community is in favour of decongesting the settlement, they have expressed apprehensions and is of the opinion that such relocation should take place only after the feasibility study is carried out.
As per the report, the first relocation was to take place in April this year. However, that could not take place reportedly due to the international community which is working in the camps discouraging the Rohingyas not to move to the island.
Dhaka Tribute quotes an unnamed senior foreign ministry officer of the Bangladesh Government who says that the international aid workers are fearmongering and telling Rohingyas that they will not survive on the island, due to which they are refusing to shift to the island. In fact, the Rohingyas now say that they’d rather die in the congested Cox’s Bazaar than move to the remote island.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh is also in the process of repatriating around 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled from violence in Myanmar back to Myanmar.
India is keeping a close watch on the repatriation as there has been a rising demand of deportation of around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims who have settled in India. They are considered illegal immigrants in India. The Indian government has said that Rohingyas are a threat to the national security and are prone to radicalisation and it is willing to deport them.
Rohingya Muslims had indulged in brutal killings of Hindus in Myanmar.
Bhashan Char, which literally means ‘floating island’ emerged as an island about 20 years ago from a slit. The area was declared a forest reserve in 2013 and it regularly gets flooded between the monsoon months of June to September. The island’s area is around 10,000 acres at high tide and 15,000 acres at low tide.
It is located 21 nautical miles from Noakhali, 11 nautical miles from Jahajir Char, 4.2 nautical miles from Sandwip, 28 nautical miles from Patenga, and 13.2 nautical miles from Hatia and the only mode of commute for residents of Bhasan Char, should the Rohingyas decide to relocate to that island, will be vessels that take three to three-and-a-half hours to travel from Hatia.
No one has ever lived on the island before and was used for cattle grazing till the construction for the Rohingya settlement started.