Authorities in Bangladesh have revealed on October 22 that they will start relocation of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Bay of Bengal island soon from the camps near the border with Myanmar from where they fled. The plan for relocation first came up in 2015 but no major progress was made.
A government official in Cox's Bazaar, Kamal Hossain said that they have identified 100 families willing to move to Bhasan Char which is an island a few hours by boat from the mainland. The Government states that it will relocate 100,000 refugees to the island in a phased manner. Hossain said they wish to start the relocation process in late November or in December.
He said that the government's policy regarding the Rohingya refugees is that no force shall be used to handle them. He said that his government has long been working with Refugees for confidence building and relocate them. Hossain said that he has a list of 100 families with over 7,000 refugees. He added that they were trying to persuade more refugees to move to the island.
The government has previously set several deadlines for developing the island but no final dates were revealed. PM Sheikh Hasina has reiterated her stand on refugees to the UN and the international community that her administration will engage refugees before making a final decision on the relocation. The Government has been building infrastructure on the island including homes, schools, mosques and flood protection embankments under a multimillion-dollar project
The UN and human rights groups have said that relocation to the island will further complicate the lives of refugees because of how often it floods there. Many Rohingyas were also against the proposal but things changed after the 2017 Rohingya refugee crisis. Currently, more than a million Rohingyas live in Bangladesh with over 700,000 coming from Myanmar since late August 2017 in wake of a violent crackdown by the country's military.
Rohingya Muslims have long demanded that Myanmar, which is a Buddhist Majority nation, grant them citizenship, safety and their own land and homes they left behind. Myanmar has refused to acknowledge Rohingyas as citizens or even as one of its ethnic groups which makes them stateless.