Facilities in Bhashan Char: Rohingya leaders satisfied after trip | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 09, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:23 AM, September 09, 2020

Facilities in Bhashan Char: Rohingya leaders satisfied after trip

Rohingya leaders, who went on a "go-and-visit" to Bhashan Char housing project, said they were happy with the facilities there and that those were far better than their current living conditions in Teknaf and Ukhiya camps.

Badrul Islam, a community leader of Nayapara refugee camp-26 in Teknaf, said the three days they spent in Bhashan Char were an amazing experience.

"The overall arrangements of Bhashan Char are laudable. I liked it. Security arrangements are also strong. There is a peaceful environment all around. The road communications are also good," he told The Daily Star by phone upon his return.

One concern, Badrul said, however, is that they will have to stay far from the close relatives living in the camps.

On August 5, a team of 40 Rohingyas reached Bhashan Char, an island in Noakhali's Hatiya upazila, under the supervision of Bangladesh Army and Navy and it was coordinated by the Refugee Rehabilitation and Repatriation Commissioner's (RRRC) office.

The government has built 120 cluster villages on the 40sqkm island under a Tk 2,312-crore housing project for one lakh out of the nearly 10 lakh Rohingyas sheltered in cramped camps in Cox's Bazar.

Some 750,000 Rohingyas fled brutal military campaign by Myanmar military. Despite two efforts, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated to Rakhine state, with the refugees saying the conditions in Rakhine were not conducive and safe for return.

Meanwhile, the camp population has made a demographic imbalance of Cox's Bazar, affecting the environment, economy and creating social problems, said government officials.

They said the houses have been built four feet above the ground with concrete blocks and are protected by a 13km-long flood embankment.

There are also 120 cyclone shelters planned to be used as schools, medical centres and community centres. The officials say Rohingyas also could be involved in productive activities.

The UN and aid agencies argue that the island was isolated, flood-prone and would be hazardous for Rohingyas because of cyclones and tidal surges. The UN refugee agency, meanwhile, submitted terms of reference to the government seeking a technical assessment and is still awaiting response. The agency also says any Rohingya relocation must be voluntary.

The government says the cyclone Amphan could not damage anything of the housing project, proving its resilience. As part of the motivational programme, the government arranged the visit of the Rohingyas.

After the three day's visit, the Rohingyas were taken to Chattogram from Bhashan Char by a navy ship early yesterday. From there, they were taken back to the Teknaf and Ukhiya refugee camps by bus.

Nurul Amin, a community leader of Rohingya camp-7 in Ukhiya's Kutupalong, said he personally liked the facilities at Bhashan Char, which would be good for the Rohingyas to live in.

"We will share our experiences of Bhashan Char visit with the Rohingyas in the camps," he said.

Referring to the 306 Rohingyas who were sheltered at Bhashan Char after they were rescued from boats in the Bay of Bengal in April and May. They tried to reach Malaysia and Thailand, Nurul said, adding that some of them could not stop crying as they met the relatives after a few months.

"We visited the housing project's hospital, cyclone shelters, school, houses, goat farm and fish projects. We also saw the health, food and income-generating opportunities for the Rohingyas," said Mohammad Kalam, a community leader of Rohingya camp-24 in Teknaf's Leda.

"I really liked these facilities. These are far better than that of Teknaf and Ukhiya camps," he said.

Asked, RRRC Mahbub Alam Talukder said so far, the Rohingyas they interacted with is very positive.

"As Rohingya leaders are happy about the facilities in Bhashan Char, it will be their role to share their experiences with other fellow Rohingyas of the camps. Based on that, we will prepare a list of those interested to move to Bhashan Char," he said.

However, the next course of actions will depend on the higher authorities' instructions.

Asked on UN refugee agency's proposal of a technical assessment of the facilities in Bhashan Char, Disaster and Relief Ministry Senior Secretary Shah Kamal said the government will make a decision on it at the soonest.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen recently said the Rohingya relocation may start after the monsoon following the visits of UN, rights groups and media.  


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