Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen yesterday said Bangladesh would not relocate Rohingyas to Bashan Char, an island in Noakhali, if all concerned think that would be a problem for them.
“We thought they [Rohingyas] will live there better,” he told reporters mentioning that the government had made big arrangements for Rohingyas in Bashan Char.
The foreign minister was talking to reporters after jointly inaugurating “Demonstration and Introduction of STP (Set-Top) Boxes for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)” in Bangladesh Missions abroad with Information Minister Hasan Mahmud at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The foreign minister said the government had a plan to relocate around 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char on a voluntary basis in April next but now they did not know when it would take place amid various conditions placed by various international organisations.
“The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief is looking into the matter,” the FM added.
The foreign minister also said that Bangladesh was hosting around 1.1 to 1.2 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
He said their fear was that there might be landslides during the coming monsoon causing casualties. “That is why we tried to take 23,000 families or around 1 lakh Rohingyas to Bhasan Char.”
On March 25, the United Nations (UN) appreciated Bangladesh’s efforts to seek alternative locations for Rohingyas but sought clarification about the modalities of potential relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasan Char.
The government of Bangladesh said it planned to relocate Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char that could help “decongest” the overcrowded settlements in Cox’s Bazar.
Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar and most of them arrived on August 25, 2017.
“We are seeking clarification about the modalities of any relocation, the living conditions that would be provided and the basic rights and services that refugees would be able to access if they decided to relocate to Bhasan Char,” said the UN in Bangladesh in a press statement on Monday.
The UN is also seeking clarification on issues of governance and access that the UN and partners would have to the island.
The UN’s position is to “engage constructively” with the government of Bangladesh on Bhasan Char.
“We are 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,” the statement reads.
The UN said the viability of any Rohingya relocations to Bhasan Char and the possibility of establishing a humanitarian response operation on the island would require thorough assessments, including technical assessments of the island and careful planning.
“We are also examining the potential operational implications of setting up a humanitarian response to Bhasan Char, including the requirements, time frames and costs involved in providing services,” reads the UN statement.
The UN considers that any relocation to Bhasan Char “must be on a voluntary basis”.
The UN said Rohingyas should have relevant, accurate and timely information on the project from the government, so they can make free and informed decisions.
The views and concerns of the refugees must be heard and addressed as part of the consultative process, reads the statement on the potential relocation of Rohingyas.