Aid agencies still preventing Rohingya relocation: FM

The aid agencies are still pressuring the government against Bhasan Char relocation of Rohingyas despite the recent powerful cyclone Amphan, that killed many lives and destroyed thousands of homes in Bangladesh, proved that the river island is safe for human living.

 “But there’s a pressure on us. UNHCR and other INGOs want to go for examination before relocation,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said on Sunday to reporters.

The river island remained unharmed during the cyclone with its 306 Rohingyas who were taken there after being rescued from their small boats floating on the Bay of Bengal.

Aid agencies have been preventing the government to relocate Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar citing safety and security of those nationals who fled Myanmar army’s ethnic cleansing.

The foreign minister, earlier, said that the resistance is due to the inconveniences of the aid agencies to visit and stay at Bhasan Char where there are no four star, five star rated hotels like in Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh gave shelter to over 1.1 million Ronihyas who are living in crowded conditions in the Cox’s Bazar camps.

The government developed the river island, Bhasan Char, at the estuary of Meghna River for human habitation with all the facilities, but due to international pressure could not relocate Rohingyas there.

On Sunday, the foreign minister said it is a “very beautiful place and it should have been a resort.”

“It would be a wonderful resort, such a beautiful place. I would have made it a resort had I been in charge of it,” he said.

He said the government decided to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char to avoid the risk of deaths due to landslides in Cox's Bazar crowded camps.

He said facilities were developed there so that Rohingyas can engage in similar economic activities to what they used to do in Myanmar.

He said the government wants to relocate Rohingyas there gradually.

European Union Ambassador to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink recently sought visits by UN technical and humanitarian protection teams in Bhasan Char though Rohingya leaders recently expressed satisfaction over the situation there.

“While the first recent “go-and-see” visit was a welcome step, it would also be important that the proposed UN technical and protection assessments are also able to proceed, as well as the separate humanitarian and protection visits to assess the situation for the 306 refugees already relocated there,” she had said.

The government built two strong dams using foreign experts to keep the island unharmed in any calamities.

One around the sea is 10 feet high and the other is 33 feet high. So there is no way to enter water in cyclones from outside, the foreign minister, earlier, said.

On May 20, the Foreign Minister held a meeting through video conferencing with Ambassadors of Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the European Union Delegation in Dhaka on the Covid-19 situation.

During the meeting, the Rohingya issue also came up.

Dr Momen called upon the Ambassadors to share the burden of providing better life and living for persecuted Rohingyas in their own countries or relocate and settle them in third countries.

He said almost three years have passed and although Myanmar agreed to take them back, not a single Rohingya went back home yet.

Dr Momen told them that Bangladesh per capita income is around 2000 US dollars with a density of population around 1200 per sq. mile.

“Bangladesh's situation is different to that of the EU where their per capita income is around 50,000 dollars and density of population is as low as 15 per sq. mile,” Dr Momen had said. “Therefore, one must be pragmatic”.