Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her “prudent and decisive” action to relocate a section of the Rohingyas to Bhasan Char island from Cox’s Bazar.
The foreign ministry said the decision was taken to avoid deaths and accidents due to landslides and other untoward incidents in the overcrowded hilly areas of Kutupalong where law and order situation has been deteriorating.
The new island will provide better living for the time being before final repatriation to Myanmar, the foreign minister said.
“While the global leadership and the UN agencies have been extending lip service to the persecuted people of Myanmar and making statements again and again, none came forward either for their relocation or sending them back to their country of origin Myanmar,” he said as the government moved the first batch to the river island on Friday.
The foreign ministry says the relocation of Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Bhashan Char has become “imperative” to decongest the overcrowded camps and expects that the UN will join the process as per its mandate ‘very soon’.
The relocation is a part of the broader plan of repatriation which is the only ‘priority’ for the government of Bangladesh, the foreign ministry said on Friday after the arrival of more than 1600 Rohingyas in Bhasan Char as the first batch of the planned voluntary relocation of 100,000 refugees.
The foreign ministry said they expressed their willingness voluntarily for relocation and it was done in the face of growing concern over the extreme congestion in the camps of Cox’s Bazar and to avert any risk of death due to landslides and other unwarranted incidents.
“The relocation has become imperative to decongest the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar that have temporarily been accommodating nearly a million of Rohingyas with many more thousands born each year,” read the statement.
The government’s position was “very clear and transparent” from the very beginning that any relocation would be entirely on a voluntary basis.
Accordingly, a good number of Rohingya representatives undertook a “go and see” visit to Bhashan Char to see the facilities and make an independent and informed choice.
A number of NGOs and journalists also visited the island. All of them expressed their high satisfaction at the available facilities in Bhashan Char.
A media team and a group of senior journalists are already in Bhashan Char. More importantly, the relocation was preceded by adequate preparations and consultations held with different stakeholders, the foreign ministry said.
“Several rounds of discussions, based on the queries of the United Nations, were also arranged and we hope that the international community and the United Nations, as per its mandate, will be involved in the process very soon.”
The deteriorating security situation due to prolonged stay of these frustrated people in Cox’s Bazar also compelled the GOB to come up with a contingency plan and develop Bhashan Char from its own budgetary allocation.
Accordingly, the government invested more than $350.00 million to develop the island.
The 13,000 acres island has all modern amenities, year-round fresh water, beautiful lake and proper infrastructure and enhanced facilities. These include uninterrupted supply of electricity and water, agricultural plots, cyclone shelters, two hospitals, four community clinics, mosques, warehouses, telecommunication services, police station, recreation and learning centers, playgrounds, etc.
In contrast to the makeshift structures of the camps in Cox’s Bazar, the accommodation in Bhashan Char is strongly-built with concrete foundation which can withstand natural disasters such as cyclones and tidal waves.
Super Cyclone AMPHAN proved the strength of the structures of Bhashan Char. Contrary to the apprehension of some quarters about the feasibility of the island, Bhashan Char stood firm against the massive storm.
The foreign minister said while international agencies make noise about facilities in the Rohingya camps or Bhasan Char, none had the courage and sincerity to approach Myanmar to create a conducive environment leading to their repatriation to their own country in safety and security.
“If these desperate people with no hope for future left alone, there is always possibility of pockets of radicalism and terrorism, and such may create uncertainty in the region frustrating the ongoing development projects in Myanmar,” the foreign minister said.
During the last three years, trade and investment from European, ASEAN, China, Japan, and UK have increased many folds in Myanmar in spite of violation of human rights in Myanmar.
Dr Momen said none of the Human Rights organizations put any blockade to those countries that are heavily investing in Myanmar. They did not even ask them for divestment as they did in the case of Apartheid in South Africa.
The foreign ministry earlier said that Rohingya problem was created by Myanmar and they are the only one who can solve it.
“Therefore, all international organizations and important countries of the world must commit themselves to approach Myanmar in a meaningful way to resolve this crisis, sooner the better.”