Bangladesh calls for support with Rohingya relocation plan

By AFP

DHAKA — Bangladeshi authorities urged the international community Sunday to back a controversial plan to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar to a remote island despite warnings it is uninhabitable.

Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali called on representatives from 60 diplomatic missions and several United Nations agencies to take “meaningful measures” to relocate the refugees.

The scheme would see the Rohingya resettled on Thengar Char island in the Bay of Bengal, where Ali said the displaced would have “better access to humanitarian assistance”.

Some 232,000 Rohingya Muslims — both registered and unregistered — were already living in Bangladesh before more than 65,000 others began arriving in October, fleeing violence in Rakhine State.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Most of those who fled to Bangladesh live in squalid conditions in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district, which borders Rakhine and is home to the country’s biggest tourist resort.

Last week, Bangladesh established a committee comprised of state officials in coastal districts to oversee the plan, and ordered authorities to help identify and relocate undocumented Myanmar nationals to the island.

One local official criticised the idea, saying the 2,430-hectare island was “only accessible during winter and a haven for pirates”.

Bangladesh first mooted the idea of relocating the refugees in 2015 despite allegations that the island was still not ready for human habitation.

The idea sparked an outcry from Rohingya community leaders, while a UN agency said a forced relocation would be “very complex and controversial”.

During Sunday’s meeting, Ali told officials the Rohingya would only be relocated to the island after the government finished building the necessary infrastructure, including schools and roads.

“[The minister] requested the… UN and other international partners to render their support in the implementation of this relocation plan by providing assistance in developing the island and in transporting the Myanmar nationals,” read a foreign ministry statement, adding that the move was a “temporary arrangement”.

“Bangladesh would like the international community to take meaningful measures for repatriation of this population to their homes back in Myanmar,” the statement said.

Myanmar has long faced international criticism for its treatment of the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and live in conditions rights groups have compared to apartheid.

Since October, Myanmar security forces have carried out a military crackdown in the north of Rakhine state that the United Nations has said has likely killed hundreds.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar