Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque has said the Rohingya refugees will be relocated to habitable and viable places after ensuring all safety measures.
He said on Monday that Bhashan Char was one of the several options the government was considering.
The secretary was addressing the inaugural session of the two-day international conference titled “Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Towards Sustainable Solutions” at Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban at University of Dhaka.
He said while the government was considering all possible options, they think there were no alternative for Rohingyas and Bangladeshi locals but to live side by side.
He said the government would arrange helicopters for the international community to go and visit Bhashan Char when it was ready for the Rohingyas’ relocation.
Shahidul, however, reiterated Bangladesh's stance on the safe and dignified return of these forcibly displaced people adding "we kept open bilateral, multilateral and civil society windows" to mount pressure on Myanmar for taking them back.
As a temporary arrangement, Bangladesh is currently aiming to prepare new homes on the island for 100,000 Rohingyas before the onset of seasonal monsoon rains that could come in late April.
Almost 40% of constructing 1,440 houses including 120 cyclone shelters has already been completed with the Bangladesh Navy overseeing the development project.
The foreign secretary also said the government was aware of the upcoming monsoon and had an elaborate plan so it does not aggravate the plight of the Rohingyas who are living in the densely populated refugee camps in Cox's Bazar.
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The camps will be hard-pressed to endure natural disasters like flood, landslides and cyclones.
Shahidul said international assistance for the Rohingyas was declining and that was another challenge for Bangladesh.
"The crisis didn't originate from any conflict between Bangladesh and Myanmar. This is something between Myanmar and its own people," he said.
Replying to a question from journalists on India’s role in Rohingya repatriation, Shahidul said Bangladesh was happy with the neighbour country’s recent initiatives.
He also said former Indian foreign secretary, S Jaishankar, signing a government-to-government agreement on long-term socio-economic development during his visit to Myanmar's Rakhine state in December last year, was also part of the repatriation process.
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He said the matter would be further discussed when newly appointed Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale visits Dhaka later this month.
DU’s Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS), Action Aid Bangladesh and Centre for Peace and Justice of Brac University are jointly hosting the international conference being attended by foreign relation experts, students and diplomats.
Presenting the keynote paper during the inaugural session on Monday, CGS Director and DU’s International Relations Department teacher Prof Imtiaz Ahmed said China and India could play important roles for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis.
He made the suggestion to the Bangladesh government to call a conference of the countries sheltering the Rohingyas including India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and several other Middle Eastern countries, as well as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan.
"We need to think of two levels of conferences. One conference would be to bring those countries where Rohingyas have taken refuge. And the second level of conference should be an international conference within or outside UN to settle the matter," Imtiaz suggested.
Addressing the session, UNDP Country Director Sudipto Mukerjee termed the fresh exodus of over 700,000 Rohingyas in Bangladesh since August 25 last year as a huge burden on the country which "We cannot expect Bangladesh to carry alone."
“It is time to repatriate them to their place of origin in Myanmar. But if this repatriation is not their free choice, and if such repatriation is not happening with respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights, then the jeopardy will never end,” he said.
This article was compiled with information from Bangla Tribune, UNB and BSS