The situation was brought under control without using force, claims Noakhali police
A group of Rohingyas in Bhashan Char created a disturbance during the visit of two senior officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday, multiple sources confirmed Dhaka Tribune.
The Rohingyas, who were earlier relocated from the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, resorted to violent protests and destruction of properties on the island, they said.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Alamgir Hossain, the superintendent of Police (SP) of Noakhali district which has jurisdiction over Bhashan Char, claimed that the situation was brought under control without the use of any force.
As a result of the disturbance, the meeting between the UNHCR officials and the Rohingya representatives was delayed by two hours, he said.
The UN Refugee Agency’s Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou and Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Gillian Triggs arrived in Dhaka from Geneva on Sunday on a four-day trip.
They went to Bhashan Char on Monday to see different aspects of the island developed by the Bangladesh Navy — at a cost of about Tk3,100 crore — for the relocation of a little over 100,000 Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar.
“I don’t know yet how they feel about the facilities on the island. The two assistant high commissioners will come to meet with me tomorrow [Tuesday],” Mohd Mohsin, secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief — the line ministry in respect of the Rohingya crisis — told Dhaka Tribune.
The Rohingya protesters violently demonstrated complaining about the low-quality food served to them, lack of income generation activities and food rationing, said the sources about the disturbance.
The demonstrators reportedly attacked two markets, the office of the camp-in-charge, fire station and warehouse with local weapons, they said.
There is also a report of fatalities following baton-charge and shooting by law enforcers, they added.
About the unconfirmed report of shooting and fatalities, Secretary Mohsin said: “I heard about the violent disturbance. But I haven’t heard about any shooting.”
No use of force
“The Rohingyas, pushing their demands, got violent and attacked the warehouse during their protest. Glasses of the warehouse were broken during their attacks,” said Noakhali SP Alamgir Hossain.
When asked about the demands of the Rohingyas, he said: “I could not fully understand their dialect. What I understood was that they were complaining about the lack of income-generating activities and food ration.”
Asked whether police used any force to bring the situation under control, the SP said: “We cannot be heavy-handed when two senior UNHCR officials are on the island. We managed to persuade the protesters without the use of any force.”
He added that the two UN officials flew to Cox’s Bazar after the meeting with the Rohingya representatives.
UNHCR’s Communications Officer in Bangladesh Louise Donovan told Dhaka Tribune that the agency delegation’s visit was facilitated by the Bangladesh government.
“The UNHCR delegation was able to meet with a large group of refugees and listen to the various issues that they raised, which the delegation will further discuss with the Bangladesh authorities,” she said.
“The delegation has now arrived in Cox’s Bazar and will visit the Rohingya refugee camps tomorrow [Tuesday], before returning to Dhaka to meet with senior government officials,” she added.
Since December last year, Bangladesh authorities have shifted 18,000 out of a planned 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhashan Char from the camps in Cox's Bazar, where over one million refugees live in squalid and cramped conditions.
Most of them had fled a brutal military offensive in neighbouring Myanmar in 2017 that UN investigators concluded was executed with "genocidal intent."