A United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar has voiced deep concern at Bangladesh’s plan to ease chronic overcrowding in the Rohingya refugee camps in the southeast of the country by relocating 23,000 people to a small, barren island in the Bay of Bengal, the Bangladesh Chronicle reported on March 11.
UN special rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee, who has visited the island, said the island may not be habitable, creating the potential for a “new crisis.” Bhasan Char, which means “floating island,” is vulnerable to frequent cyclones and cannot provide a livelihood for that many people.
There are now about 730,000 Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar in camps in Bangladesh and the Bangladesh government believes that as many as 100,000 refugees could be relocated to Bhasan Char.
No one has ever lived on the island before. It was mainly used for cattle grazing until Bangladesh authorities began building shelters for the Rohingyas last year.
With any repatriation to Myanmar unlikely within the foreseeable future, Bangladesh patience with the situation is also running thin.
In recent weeks, the media in Bangladesh has blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a militant group that has carried out several attacks inside Myanmar, for organized violence in the refugee camps, including a series of killings.
ARSA has acknowledged the violence, but denied the leadership has sanctioned it.
Other crimes and transgressions in the area, ranging from drug trafficking to encroachment on local forests, have also been blamed on the Rohingyas, and that has also prompted Bangladesh authorities to make plans for the relocation of refugees from Myanmar border areas.