Rohingya children wait for food in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Photo: iStock

The planned relocation of 100,000 Rohingyas from refugee camps near the Myanmar border to Bhasan Char, an island off the coast of Bangladesh, may not happen, the Bangladesh Chronicle reported on March 27.

The Chronicle quoted Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen as saying that he and his government thought the Rohingya would get a better life on the island, but various international organizations have placed conditions on the move, insisting it would have to be voluntary.

On March 25, the United Nations stated it appreciated Bangladesh’s efforts to seek alternative locations for the Muslim refugees from Myanmar. The UN statement went on to say that “we’re discussing with the government the critical protection and operational issues that should be considered before any relocations take place in order to ensure that refugees would be able to live in safe and sustainable living conditions on Bhasan Char.”

According to Momen, Bangladesh hosts about 1.1 to 1.2 million Rohingya in the Cox’s Bazar area in the southeasternmost corner of the country. Bangladesh has been engaged in talks with the Myanmar government about the future of the refugees, most of whom arrived in 2016 and 2017.

But it seems clear that the Myanmar government does not want them back and the Rohingya have said they won’t return to Rakhine State across the border unless the international community can ensure their safety, and they are recognized as citizens of Myanmar, which is unlikely to happen.

With no solution in sight, analysts fear that a Palestine-like situation could emerge in Bangladesh, or the Rohingya could try to join the flow of Bangladeshi migrants to India. Either scenario could have far-reaching consequences for political stability in the immediate region.

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