DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s government is moving forward with a plan to relocate Rohingya refugees staying in camps near the country’s largest tourist resort towns to a remote island that is underwater for much of the year.
A cabinet order on Thursday directed officials to have the refugees transferred to Thengar Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal that is lashed by high tides year round and submerged during the monsoon season. The suggestion that they be moved to the largely uninhabitable marshland several hours by boat from the mainland drew criticism from around the world.
The relocation plan was last proposed in 2015, but the government quietly suspended it after criticism from international aid groups and rights activists. Its reinstatement follows the arrival of about 65,000 Rohingya from Myanmar in October and November, after a crackdown by Myanmar’s army and attacks on security forces by Islamic insurgents.
The United Nations has called the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group denied citizenship in Myanmar, the world’s most persecuted minority. John McKissick, head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, near the Burmese border, said in November that Myanmar’s government was trying to achieve an “ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.”
Since 1992, about 32,000 registered Rohingya have been living in two United Nations camps near Cox’s Bazar, but estimates of unregistered refugees range from 200,000 to 500,000. Many of them live in two sprawling makeshift shelters close to the official camps, while others are scattered across southeast Bangladesh.
Categories: Asia, Bangladesh, Ethnic cleansing, Ethnic discrimination, Human rights, Immigration, Immigration policy, Islam, Islamophobia, Myanmar, Politics, Religion, Religious discrimination, Religious persecution, War crimes, World news