UN says it has 'limited information' on Rohingya relocation to Bhasan Char

  • News Desk, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-12-02 12:59:41 BdST

A 91-feet high lighthouse has also been constructed on the island, which is capable of providing navigational assistance to vessels that are up to 14 nautical miles away.

The United Nations has called on Bangladesh to ensure that the Rohingya people are able to make a 'free and informed decision' about relocating to Bhasan Char as the government prepares to move the first batch of refugees to the island.

In a statement on Wednesday, the UN, however, said it has not been involved in preparations for this movement or the identification of the refugees and has limited information on the overall relocation exercise.

"The United Nations takes this opportunity to highlight its longstanding position that Rohingya refugees must be able to make a free and informed decision about relocating to Bhasan Char based upon relevant, accurate and updated information."

It also urged the government to uphold its commitment to facilitate 'voluntary movements' to the island, while emphasising the need to ensure basic rights and services to refugees who choose to move to Bhasan Char.

On the relocation process, the intergovernmental organisation highlighted its efforts to engage in 'constructive consultations' for a better understanding of the plan but said it remains willing to continue this dialogue.

"The United Nations has also consistently maintained that any relocations to Bhasan Char should be preceded by comprehensive technical protection assessments. These independent United Nations assessments would review the safety, feasibility and sustainability of Bhasan Char as a place for refugees to live, as well as the framework for protection and the assistance and services they would be able to access on the island."

The UN added that it is prepared to proceed with the technical and protection assessments, if permitted by the government, which would enable the organisation to determine if it can engage operationally with the Bhasan Char project.

"If so, further work would then need to follow in order to develop plans and budgets, in consultation with the government and national and international NGO partners, as well as with the international donors whose support makes the Rohingya humanitarian response possible in Bangladesh," it said.

The UN also reiterated its commitment to supporting Bangladesh in delivering an effective and efficient humanitarian programme for the nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in the Cox’s Bazar settlements, while also intensively working toward solutions for them, including through their safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return to Myanmar.

"The United Nations appreciates the generosity and humanitarian spirit of the Government and People of Bangladesh in offering safety and shelter to the Rohingya refugees and remains committed to our partnership in a humanitarian response that has saved many thousands of lives and supported many more."

Around two years ago, the government formulated plans to relocate a portion of the 1.1 million forcibly-displaced Rohingya people living in and outside the refugee camps along Bangladesh's south coast to Bhasan Char, situated in the Meghna River's estuary near Hatia.

However, the process of relocation failed to get off the ground due to the reluctance of the Rohingya refugees to move to the uninhabited island.

Later on Nov 30, officials said plans had been finalised to take the first batch of Rohingya refugees from Cox's Bazar to the island of Bhasan Char 'within the next 10 days'.

The government, at a cost of over Tk 23 billion, has set up the infrastructure of 120 cluster villages across 13,000 acres of the island to accommodate more than 100,000 people.

Bhasan Char currently shelters around 300 Rohingya, who were rescued at sea while on their way to Malaysia.

The relocation process will begin once the authorities finish reviewing the list of Rohingya refugees who are willing to move to Bhasan Char, according to Additional Commissioner of the Office for Refugee Relief and Repatriation Mohammad Shamsud Douza.