Bangladesh to House Rohingya Refugees in ‘Deadly’ Island
Experts claim that the island could be swallowed by tides and rising seas.
A Bangladesh government economic council chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 28 November, gave the green signal to the planned redevelopment of a desolate island off its southern coast, for it to be turned into a temporary camp for 100,000 Rohingya refugees, despite warnings that the site is uninhabitable.
The redevelopment of the ‘Bhashan Char island’, a project that has attracted fierce criticism since being first proposed in 2015, is listed at US$280 million and is expected to be completed by 2018, according to a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP). The land only emerged from the Bay of Bengal in 2006. The nearest inhabited island is reported to be a one-hour boat ride away.
This decision comes a few days after the country signed an agreement to send back Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.
Planning Secretary Ziaul Islam told AFP that it was hoped the island would be ready from May to accommodate some of the more than 620,000 Rohingya Muslims, who have crossed the border in the past three months.
Approximately one lakh (1,00,000) people will be shifted there for the time being. We hope the project work will be completed by 2018.Ziaul Islam, Planning Secretary told AFP
Islam added that the government has even enlisted the help of the navy to ‘expedite’ the process. According to the report, the project was put on hold due to the opposition by several groups, including several leaders for the persecuted Muslim minority, who warned that it could be completely inundated by floods.
The project was revived after unprecedented Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh this year.
A.H Mahmood Ali, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh had in September, reportedly appealed for international assistance to transport the Rohingya refugees to the island.
AFP reports that experts claim that the island could be swallowed by tides and rising seas, considering Bangladesh’s low-lying riverine structure.
Additionally, a UN agency official has warned the government that any attempt at a forced relocation would be "very complex and controversial".
(With inputs from AFP)
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