Yesterday, a group of 40 Rohingya refugees including Majhis (camp leader) were taken to the islet named Bhashan Char in the Bay of Bengal accompanied by Bangladesh army and navy personnel.

Their visit will end tomorrow with a day trip where Bangladesh government is planning to relocate 1,00,000 Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazaar. “They will have the chance to thoroughly inspect the island and the facilities constructed by the Bangladesh government, which include buildings that can house up to 100,000 people. The group can evaluate the living conditions and decide whether the land is suitable for relocation,” said Mohammad Shamsu Douza, a top official working on refugee affairs in Bangladesh.

Refugee Rehabilitation and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mahbub Alam Talukder told The Daily Star, “If everything is right, we will start relocating one lakh Rohingyas after the monsoon.” The entire housing site is protected by a 13 km long flood embankment including 120 cyclone shelters which are planned to be used as schools, medical centres and community centres. The officials also said there are large swathes of land that could be used for livestock and fish farming if the Rohingyas were relocated there as the refugees in the Cox’s Bazar camps have very little work to do now.

On the contrary, the plan to relocate the Rohingya community to the Bhashan Char islet has been widely criticized by rights groups and refugee agencies. Md Enamur Rahman, state minister for disaster management and relief told The Daily Star on 13th February, “Without the cooperation from those organisations, the government would face difficulties in arranging food, healthcare and other necessary items.”

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen had said if the Rohingyas were shifted to Bhashan Char, they might not agree to leave the place in future. He also had said the government wanted the Rohingyas to go back to Rakhine and repatriation was a high priority.