About 700 Rohingyas have tried to escape from the island, which has been a major challenge for the authorities
Engagement by the United Nations in the Bhasan Char operations is expected to stop the Rohingyas fleeing from the island, according to government officials.
So far, nearly 700 out of 20,000 Rohingyas, who were earlier relocated from camps in Cox’s Bazar, have tried to escape from the island in the Bay of Bengal, they have told Dhaka Tribune.
This has been a major challenge for the authorities, they added.
It could not be ascertained as to how many Rohingyas had been able to make their way out of the island, but two officials from the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) put the figure “in hundreds”.
Based in Cox’s Bazar, the RRRC under the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief is the top government body with respect to the Rohingya crisis.
“Bhasan Char has always been a centre of international attention from the beginning. The stories on Rohingyas fleeing the island were making things worse,” an official told this correspondent.
Referring to the memorandum of understanding (MoU), signed between the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on October 9, he said: “Now that the UN will be engaged operationally, matters concerning the Rohingyas, especially livelihoods and education, will be addressed.”
“As far as I know, the Rohingyas here in Bhasan Char have reacted positively to the MoU,” he added.
Echoing his colleague, another official referred to the capsize of a boat carrying Rohingyas in August and said: “This must stop and I think the UN involvement will help us in this regard.”
Along with addressing the concerns of Rohingyas, the security of the island needs to be strengthened, said a top official of the Noakhali police.
Bhasan Char, which has been developed by the Bangladesh Navy at a cost of about Tk3,100 crore to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas from the camps in Cox’s Bazar, is administratively under Noakhali district.
UN to engage in Bhasan Char operations immediately
With the MoU having been signed, the engagement of the UN will be immediate, Md Mohsin, secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Dhaka Tribune.
He also made it clear that no other documents were needed to be signed before the UN engagement.
“UN will engage in Bhasan Char immediately…anytime from the signing of the MoU,” Mohsin said.
UNHCR Bangladesh could not be reached for comments in this regard.
Nearly 80,000 more Rohingyas are to be relocated to Bhasan Char in three months starting November.
The government plans to reach its target of relocating nearly 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char by January.
The relocation of the Rohingyas to Bhasan Char began in December 2020 and so far about 20,000 people have been transported to the island by sea.
“We will resume the relocation next month (November). We are planning to ferry 80,000 more forcibly-displaced Myanmar nationals from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char in three months,” said Secretary Mohsin.
“We may use the month of February if we need it,” he added.