‘Rohingya desert remote Bangladeshi island for want of living’

Restrictions and lack of resources to earn livelihood turn Rohingya dreams in Bhasan Char Island sour.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – At least 11 bodies of Rohingya refugees were recovered with 30 others still missing after their boat capsized last week when they were trying to escape from the remote Bangladeshi Bhasan Char Island.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mohammad Arafat, a Rohingya, said nearly 100 refugees leave the island almost every night in search of a better life, despite assurances by the Bangladeshi government to build infrastructure and provide a source of living on the island.

“We are as if confined in concrete structures. People in different cluster houses are not allowed to meet each other,” said a refugee on the condition of anonymity. He had recently left the island and returned to mainland camp located in Cox’s Bazar, a town on the southeast coast of Bangladesh.

He claimed that nearly half of around 20,000 Rohingya, who were relocated on the island, have returned to Cox’s Bazar braving risks to their lives.

As part of the resettlement plan, the Bangladesh government constructed 1,440 buildings, including 120 cyclone shelters, to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refugees from the mainland camps.

“I had a small grocery shop while I was living in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar and somehow leading a modest life with all my other relatives. I shifted to Bhasan Char hearing that I can do my business and for a better life. But I am very frustrated now as my business has stopped and even can’t visit freely to my relatives here in different cluster houses,” Ansar Hossain, a refugee, told Anadolu Agency.

He alleged that a local Bangladeshi syndicate is controlling all businesses on the island and making huge profits.

“The price of daily commodities is also extremely high on this island beyond the reach of refugees,” he said.

Earning livelihood a challenge

Most of the refugees, who have relocated said earning a living was a big challenge on the remote island.

“We are human beings and it is tougher for us to live on relief goods sent by Bangladesh government and some local NGOs for a long time. For our dignity and pleasure, we need means to earn livelihoods,” Hossain said.

He said his community wants to return to Bangladeshi mainland camps and live there till repatriation to their homes in Myanmar.

Formed by Himalayan silt in 2006 the Bhasan Char Island located in the Bay of Bengal is 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the Bangladesh mainland.

In April Human Rights Watch, in a statement accused Bangladeshi security forces of beating and arbitrarily detaining dozens of Rohingya refugees who had tried to leave the island.

The UNHRC also expressed concern at reports that Rohingya protesters were allegedly injured after they were beaten by security forces.

Md. Delwar Hossain, director-general at Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry, however, denied these charges.

“The stateless Rohingya fled from a brutal killing operation in their homes. For their better and secured life, we have even developed concrete houses on our island,” he said.

He said if some people think that Rohingya living on Bangladesh’s island is not in good condition, they can take them to their own countries.

UN to mobilize international services

Hossain said instead of assessing facilities in Bangladesh, Rohingya should work for their peaceful return to their own country.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said his country was negotiating a deal with the UN to mobilize international services for Rohingya in the island.

According to UNHCR sources, the deal is almost in the final stage. UN offices concerned and officials of Bangladesh’s Foreign and Disaster Management Ministry are working on it, the UN source said without disclosing the details.

Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees. Most of them fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August 2017.

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