Bangladesh plans 'go-and-see' scheme to relocate Rohingya to island
The initial transfer of Rohingya Muslims to Bhasan Char island is expected to begin after conducting a "go-and-see" programme for various groups, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said in Dhaka.
"We'll soon conduct the go-and-see visit," he said in a webinar titled "The Rohingya Crisis: Western, Asian, and Bilateral Perspectives" organised by a private university to mark the third anniversary of Rohingya exodus.
The relocation may begin after the monsoon, which lasts generally until September, he added.
Momen said the government will arrange visits for a UN team, rights groups and media to see the island, where homes and other amenities were built to accommodate 100,000 Rohingya.
On Bangladesh's isolated "Rohingya island"
Bangladesh has investe €248 million to make Bhasan Char island liveable for the Rohingya. But the refugees, currently camped in Cox's Bazar district, are reluctant to move to the cyclone-prone island. By Arafatul Islam & Naomi Conrad
Far from the mainland: Bhasan Char, which means "floating island" in Bengali, emerged less than 20 years ago in the Bay of Bengal. The island is located 30 kilometres away from mainland Bangladesh. The government of the Muslim-majority country plans to relocate some 100,000 Rohingya refugees to this island from the overcrowded Cox's Bazar
No easy crossing: there is no proper transport to and from the island. During monsoon season the high seas make it difficult to reach the island by boat
Protected by an embankment: the government has erected a 13-kilometre-long and 3-metre-high embankment to protect the island from high tides and floods. Still, local shopkeepers say that the outer part of the embankment is submerged by 3 to 4 feet during the high tides that occur twice a month
Identical buildings: the Bangladeshi government has erected 1,440 single-storey buildings, with 16 rooms in each, to house the Rohingya refugees. At least four members of a family have to live in a small room. 120 four-storey shelter houses are also available, to be used during cyclones
Solar power for energy: all buildings at Bhasan Char are equipped with solar panels to fulfil their energy demands. A big solar field and two diesel generators for electricity have also been installed. The island has a rainwater harvesting system as well as tube wells to provide drinking water
Protection from erosion: the silt island is called a "floating island" due to its unstable nature. Satellite images detected the island in 2002. Bangladeshi authorities have built a structure with pylons, gravel and sandbags to stop the island from being eroded
Is the island uninhabitable? While some experts say the island is still very fragile and uninhabitable, climate change specialist Ainun Nishat is of the opinion that people can live here if the embankment is heightened to 6.5 to 7 metres. However, he doesn't think that farming is possible on the island
Rohingya fear cyclones and drowning: the refugees are scared that they could die as a result of a cyclone if they are forcibly moved to the island. Many of their children could drown in the sea, they say
Will Rohingya move there? While the island is almost ready to host Rohingya refugees, the government has yet to make a decision on transferring them to it. Several sources say the relocation could take place in November. The Bangladeshi government has hinted it might have to force the refugees to go there if no one chooses to leave the Cox's Bazar's refugee settlements
More than 300 Rohingya men and women, who were taken to the island recently after they were rescued in the sea, are doing well, he said. As part of the larger move, the government prepared a list of Rohingya leaders to be taken to the island to show them the living situation, an official said.
Dhaka has long been planning to relocate refugees who fled persecution in Myanmar from overcrowded camps in south-eastern Cox's Bazar district to Bhasan Char, an island nearly 40 kilometres away from the mainland.
In total, more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims are living in Bangladesh; nearly 750,000 crossed into Bangladesh in the face of a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine in August 2017.
Rights groups and aid agencies have warned that the island, which emerged from sediments building up in the sea about two decades ago, might be dangerous as the area is prone to violent storm and flooding during monsoon. (dpa)