Human rights groups on Thursday urged Bangladesh to stop its plan to ship thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote island.
Officials in the country said the first group of 400 could leave later in on Thursday, Aljazeera reports.
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Police escorted the refugees in 10 buses from Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar for the journey to Chittagong port and then on to Bhasan Char – a flood-prone Bay of Bengal island that emerged from the sea 20 years ago.
The regional director of Fortify Rights, Ismail Wolff, said: “Bangladesh should halt this hasty relocation process,”. “Not one refugee should be moved until all human rights and humanitarian concerns have been resolved and genuine informed consent is assured.”
Bangladesh has said transporting refugees to Bhasan Char – a Bay of Bengal island hours from the mainland by boat – will ease chronic overcrowding in its camps at Cox’s Bazar, which are home to more than one million Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.
Humanitarian and human rights groups have urged a halt to the move, saying the island, which emerged from the sea 20 years ago and has never been inhabited, is flood-prone and vulnerable to frequent cyclones, while the government has not allowed the United Nations to carry out a safety assessment.
“The authorities should immediately halt relocation of more refugees to Bhashan Char …” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, in a statement.
“The relocation of so many Rohingya refugees to a remote island, which is still off limits to everyone including rights groups and journalists without prior permission, poses grave concerns about independent human rights monitoring,” he said.