Rohingya refugees face a new peril on a remote island

Rohingya refugees face a new peril on a remote island
Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: After fleeing a brutal crackdown in their homeland of Myanmar, the Rohingya are once again under threat. The crackdown left thousands dead.

In Cox’s Bazar, the massive refugee camp in the southeast part of Bangladesh to which many of the Rohingya refugees fled, drug, human trafficking and violence are on the rise. The Bangladeshi government has begun relocating hundreds of the refugees, against their will, to the small remote silt island of Bhasan Char.

On the first visit to the island by journalists, the BBC went to investigate what the future holds for the tens of thousands of Rohingya still living in limbo.

Three years ago, in 2017, a military operation in Myanmar destroyed entire Rohingya Muslim villages. United Nations investigators say as many as 10,000 people were killed and more than 730,000 Rohingya fled the massacre for nearing Bangladesh. The UN described it a “textbook ethnic cleansing”.

Many Rohingya refugees are desperately trying to go to Malaysia by small boats, risking their lives. Bangladesh’s authority took some of them to a tiny island called Bhasan Char.

The island of Bhasan Char emerged less than 20 years ago from the sea and it is located 60km (37 miles) off the coast of Bangladesh. Situated less than 2m above sea level, Bhasan Char is made entirely of silt, Himalayan sediment washed down river and into the sea.

For the past three years, Bangladesh authorities have been building a new town, at a cost of $350m. Their aim is to relocate more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees in order to ease tensions within the camps.

Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, has frequently defended her government’s plans, urging the international community to understand that, with over a million refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, the escalation in as both drug and human trafficking as well as violence shows the camps are no longer safe nor sustainable.

Last year, she said at the UN General Assembly: “The crisis is now becoming a regional threat. Besides increasing congestion and environmental degradation, it’s also challenging health and security in the area.”

But for many Rohingya, Bhasan Char is closer to a prison than a refuge.

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