A Bangladesh Navy ship carries Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char island, under Noakhali district, in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday, December 29, 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
Instead of putting undue pressure on Bangladesh, UN and international actors must focus on Myanmar that created the crisis, says Foreign Ministry
The Rohingya refugees are being relocated to Bhashan Char at their will and that the process is being conducted maintaining utmost transparency, Bangladesh government reiterated on Wednesday.
“The Government would like to make it unambiguously clear that the relocation process, which was commenced on 04 December 2020, in line with the GOB’s (Government of Bangladesh) efforts to decongest and de-risk the camps, strictly followed the principle of voluntariness and was conducted with utmost transparency,” said a media statement issued by the Foreign Ministry in the evening — a day after the transfer of the second batch of Rohingyas to the island.
“There was no question of the use of force, intimidation or the use of money to influence the decision of the participants,” it said.
The statement said the government is dismayed to see the generation of distorted and misinformation surrounding Bhashan Char and the relocation process.
“It is also disheartening that instead of appreciating the good intention of Bangladesh, some quarters have resorted to orchestrating misinformation to create confusion among the international community,” it added.
The Rohingyas, who were relocated, decided to be shifted there voluntarily, as was widely reported by the print and the electronic media. In fact, initially the authority arranged for the relocation of a lesser number of Rohingyas, said the statement.
However, it added: “Due to increased interest and enthusiasm, eventually more Rohingyas volunteered and participated in the relocation process willingly.”
The numerous challenges associated with the temporary hosting of persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar has compelled the government to plan relocation of 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, said the ministry.
Some 1,642 Rohingyas were relocated from Cox’s Bazar to Bhashan Char on December 4 and the second batch, comprising 1,804 Rohingyas, were moved to the island on Tuesday.
The relocation took place in the presence of representatives of media, civil society and NGOs. None of them raised any question of coercion or use of force, read the statement. Rather, when interviewed, the Rohingyas informed that they were encouraged by the positive reports on Bhashan Char that were shared with them by their relatives who were already in the island.
Also read: In pictures: In pictures: Second batch of Rohingyas moved to Bhashan Char
The government would like to re-emphasize that Bhashan Char is completely safe and suitable for human habitation, the ministry said. The 30-year-old island has all the amenities including healthcare, drinking water, options for economic activities, cyclone shelters etc.
“The island offers enough space for the free movement of the Rohingyas. Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) has already introduced regular sea-truck service between Bhashan Char and Noakhali.”
The government also thanked the CSOs and the NGOs that are partnering with it in its relocation efforts.
It also welcomed and expected involvement of more CSOs to open their operations in Bhashan Char.
At the same time, the government reiterated its stance on the involvement of the UN in the process and is ready to facilitate participation of the UN as per its mandate.
‘Focus on Myanmar’
“As we repeatedly mentioned, the problem is created by Myanmar and its solution lies solely with Myanmar,” said the Foreign Ministry statement.
“Therefore, instead of mounting undue and unjustified pressure on Bangladesh, the international community including the UN/INGOs/international humanitarian and human rights organizations must focus on the egregious human rights violations that the Rohingyas have been facing for generations in Myanmar,” it said.
“The UN should send a technical and protection assessment team to Myanmar to assess the situation of the existing Rohingyas and also to see the preparation for repatriation on the ground,” it added.
Dhaka to engage with Naypyitaw again
The ministry statement also said: “It should be remembered that Rohingyas are Myanmar nationals. Bangladesh has been hosting them on a temporary basis purely out of humanitarian gesture.”
“Any arrangement in Bangladesh for Rohingyas is solely temporary in nature. Rohingyas want to return to their homeland Myanmar and all need to work constructively to that end,” it said.
“Now that the election of Myanmar is over, we look forward to visible engagement of the international community with Myanmar for an urgent and early repatriation of these displaced and persecuted Myanmar nationals to their homeland,” it added.