Government officials hope the UN will be onboard with the relocation of the Rohingyas after visiting the island
A United Nations team concluded its maiden visit to Bhashan Char on Saturday, during which the delegation members visited the island on the Bay of Bengal, according to officials of the government and the UN.
Following the four-day visit on March 17-20, the 18-member team, led by Fumiko Kashiwa, assistant representative of the Bangladesh chapter of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will now provide its report on the trip to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they told Dhaka Tribune.
Government officials expressed optimism that after the visit, the UN would be involved in the relocation of Rohingyas, as the facilities on Bhashan Char are much better than those in Cox’s Bazar.
The relocation of Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, developed by Bangladesh Navy at a cost of about Tk3,100 crore, began on December 4 without the global body onboard.
Nearly 13,000 have already been relocated by sea. The government plans to relocate about 100,000 Rohingyas to decongest the camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The UN has always maintained that their involvement would depend upon the inspection of the island.
The UN team comprised five officials from the UNHCR, four from the World Food Programme (WFP), three from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), two from United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) and one official each from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS).
They travelled to the island from Chittagong and returned by Bangladesh Navy ships.
“The UN team saw all the aspects of the island, including safety and security, and livelihood. The members also interacted with the relocated Rohingyas,” Commander Anwarul Kabir, deputy director of the Bhashan Char project, told this correspondent.
Asked if the UN team was happy about the island, he said: “They didn’t say anything about how they felt, and we didn’t ask them. We just facilitated their visit.”
When contacted, Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain, public information officer of UNHCR Bangladesh, said: “During the visit, the UN team was apprised of needs of Rohingya refugees living on Bhashan Char, including through meetings with Rohingya men, women, boys, and girls.
“The UN team also met with the local authorities and security agencies working on the island, as well as some of the NGOs and traders operating there,” he said.
“The UN team also visited the infrastructure and facilities in Bhashan Char. This included the accommodation, health facilities, multipurpose structures, police and fire stations, transport infrastructure, power and telecommunications systems and the flood embankment,” said Sazzad Hossain.
“The United Nations is grateful to the government of Bangladesh for its facilitation of the visit and looks forward to continuing dialogue,” he added.