HRW wants Bangladesh to drop Rohingya relocation plan

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The Bangladesh government should immediately drop its plan to shift Rohingya refugees to an ‘uninhabited, undeveloped coastal island’, said New York-based Human Rights Watch on Thursday.

It said relocating the refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Thengar Char Island will deprive them of their rights to freedom of movement, livelihood, food and education, in ‘violation of Bangladesh’s obligations under international human rights law’.

Since October 2016, nearly 69,000 Rohingyas from Rakhine State in Myanmar have entered Bangladesh to escape attacks by Myanmar security forces, including unlawful killings, sexual violence and wholesale destruction of villages, reports UNB.

‘The Bangladesh government is making the ridiculous claim that relocating Rohingya refugees to an island with absolutely no facilities that is deluged at high tide and submerged during the monsoon season will improve their living conditions’, said HRW’s Asia director Brad Adams adding, ‘This proposal is both cruel and unworkable and should be abandoned.’

The plan to move long-term refugees to Thengar Char was first suggested in 2015, but was shelved after widespread condemnation, said the New York-based Rights Group.

A 2015 letter from the Bangladeshi government on the appropriate location to relocate the refugees stated that it must ‘minimize conflicts between Bangladeshis and Rohingya.’ Thengar Chor was apparently chosen because of its distance from inhabited areas — it is 30 kilometers from the populated Hatiya Island and a long journey from the existing Rohingya camps.

The government revived the plan in early February 2017 following the new influx of Rohingya refugees.

Aid agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which administers the refugee camps, expressed alarm over the revival of this plan, and said that any relocation of the refugees to Thengar Char must be voluntary, and be done through a consultative process after a feasibility study has been completed.

‘The Bangladeshi government needs to treat the persecuted Rohingya humanely, but they shouldn’t have to go it alone’, Adams said. ‘Instead of dumping Rohingya on a flooded island, the government should be seeking immediate donor support to improve existing conditions for the refugees.’

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