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Thousands of Rohingya refugees agree to move to Bangladesh island

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Thousands of Rohingya living in refugee camps in Bangladesh have agreed to move to an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said Sunday, although the island is prone to flooding.

Dhaka wants to move 100,000 refugees to a small island, saying it would ease pressure on the overcrowded border camps where about a million Rohingya live.

Some 740,000 Rohingya fled Burma in August 2017 due to a military campaign, joining some 200,000 refugees living in camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladeshi Commissioner for Refugees Mahboob Alam said that officials overseeing the move to Bashan Char Island will be deployed in the next few days.

“Between 6,000 and 7,000 refugees have expressed their willingness to move to Bashan Char,” he told AFP from Cox’s Bazar, adding that the number was increasing.

The exact date of the transfer was not disclosed, but a senior naval officer involved in the construction of facilities on the island said it could begin by December, with some 500 refugees sent to the island every day.

Bangladesh has been planning since last year to take the Rohingya to the isolated island, which is prone to flooding, an hour’s drive from Bangladesh’s mainland.

Rights groups say the island may not withstand violent storms during the annual monsoon season.

Over the past half decade, storms and hurricanes have killed hundreds of thousands in the Meghna region where the island is located.

The Rohingya leaders will be transferred to Bashan Char to look at the facilities and living conditions, according to Alam.

– Safety Facilities –

Safety facilities built on the island include a three-meter-high barrier along the island’s perimeter to prevent flooding during hurricanes, and a warehouse to keep enough food for months.

Nour Hussein, 50, said he had agreed to relocate with his family of four to the island after a video about her was shown at the camp.

The United Nations was not immediately available for comment, although Bangladeshi officials said they expected the delegation to visit the island in the next few weeks.

A human rights activist, who asked not to be named, questioned whether the refugees chose to move voluntarily.

“There is an atmosphere of fear in the camps, which may have prompted some Rohingya to agree to move to the island,” he said.

Dhaka has been increasingly frustrated by the presence of the stateless minority in Bangladesh since the recent attempt to repatriate Burma failed, and has taken many measures that make life more difficult for refugees.

This includes the banning of 3G and 4G Internet, and the confiscation of chips and mobile devices.

Bangladesh is also building a barbed wire fence with guard towers and cameras set up around the camps.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks, security forces have killed more than a dozen Rohingya accused of involvement in the murder of a local politician.

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