Fearing the spread of contagious disease of Wuhan coronavirus, Bangladesh has quarantined dozens of Rohingya refugees who are stranded at sea for weeks in a remote island known as Bhashan char, which is an uninhabited island in the Bay of Bengal mainly developed for Rohingyas. Bangladesh has built a massive facility to move around 1,00,000 Rohingya refugees from the mainland to the island, but it was empty till now as relocation had not started yet.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Memon told Benar News on Sunday, “Suddenly, the day before yesterday, some Rohingyas arrived in Teknaf aboard a dinghy. Some escaped, and the coast guard escorted the rest to Bhashan Char on Saturday night. They will be quarantined there.” Teknaf is the southernmost district of Bangladesh bordering Myanmar.
Momen further added, “We sent them to Bhasan Char to keep them isolated from people in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. Who knows whether they are infected with coronavirus or not?”
As per reports, Bangladesh refugee relief and repatriation commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukdar confirmed that 29 people were “sent to Bhashan char by the Bangladesh Military. They’ve got enough medical facilities, food, and water”. The 29 people included 28 Rohingyas and a local broker. It is not clear that they will remain there after quarantine or will return back to Bangladesh.
A team of doctors from Bangladesh Navy have also visited to take note of any healthcare issues the residents might have.
From now, all newly arrived Rohingyas will be sent to Bhashan Char, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen earlier told the Dhaka Tribune.
Rohingyas stranded in the sea in an attempt to reach Malaysia
The refugees sent at the island were among those Rohingya refugees who were stranded in the sea for months in an attempt to reach Malaysia but the country did not accept due to coronavirus outbreak.
Last month, some 28 Rohingya refugees died of hunger when one of the boats ran out of essentials. The boat was floating in water for three months after it had left for Malaysia in January, but by the time it reached the Malaysian coast, was denied entry due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The people in the boat were rescued by the Bangladeshi coast guard after it was spotted in Bangladeshi water in the Bay of Bengal.
The Bhashan Char facility to keep 1 lakh Rohingyas
Bangladesh has built a massive facility in Bhashan Char to house Rohingya refugees who are staying in camps in Cox’s Bazaar. Bangladesh plans to relocate around 1,00,000 Rohingyas to the island. Although the facility built a cost of more than 300 million Taka is almost ready, not a single Rohingya was relocated due to reluctance of the refugees to relocate, and also due to opposition from international aid agencies.
According to Bangladesh govt officials, 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 say that they’d rather die in the congested Cox’s Bazaar than move to the remote island. If the refugees are moved to the island, the international aid workers will also have to move with them, but they prefer to stay in Cox’s Bazar, that’s why they are blocking the move, allege Bangladesh govt. Bangladesh govt has built separate buildings for offices of the aid agencies in the island facility.
The Cox Bazaar is home to nearly home to one million Rohingya refugees. They have been kept in strict lockdown since early April. Very limited movement is allowed within the squalid cluster of Makeshift camp.
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.