Rohingya Refugees on the Verge of Another Dangerous Journey?


Rohingya refugees, found at sea on a boat, collecting rainwater at a temporary refugee camp in Maungdaw. — Reuters

Bhasan Char, a remote islet, was proposed for the Rohingya rehabilitation project. However, the journey to Bhasan Char is a toilsome job and during bad weather conditions it is one of the most dangerous voyages.

COX’S BAZAR, BANGLADESH (AA) — Bhasan Char, a remote islet where Bangladeshi government is planning to resettle persecuted Rohingya community of Myanmar, is measured 15,000 acres at low tide and 10,000 acres at high tide, according to the government sources.

According to data available, no one lived on the islet until the beginning of the Rohingya resettlement project nearly one year back. The islet was mostly used for cattle grazing and was a hub of the sea pirates.

The islet emerged from the Bay of Bengal in 2006 and is about 30 kilometers (21 miles) away from the mainland.

In 2013, the area was declared a forest reserve. Motor boats are the only mode of travel to the island.

Around 1,350 acres of land — 432 acres occupied and 918 acres vacant — was proposed for the Rohingya rehabilitation project. However, the journey to Bhasan Char is a toilsome job and during bad weather conditions it is one of the most dangerous voyages.

The islet is 52 kilometers (32 miles) away from nearest land, Noakhali, and 30 kilometers (19 miles) away from the nearest populated island, Hatia.

The average land elevation of Bhasan Char is 2.84 meter above the Mean Sea Level, according to Bangladesh Naval sources.

Risky route to Bhasan Char

Some local and international media reported it takes one-and-half hours to reach Bhasan Char from nearest land, Noakhali, and nearest inhabited island, Hatia, via trawler or engine boat. But the Anadolu Agency correspondent recorded more than two hours to reach the island by an engine boat from both Hatia and Noakhali.

While it takes half an hour by speed boat to reach there from both Noakhali and Hatia, a little rough weather makes this journey impossible.

The island is also prone to river erosion. Local fishermen told Anadolu Agency the southern and southeastern regions of the island frequently suffer from erosion.

According to the Forest Department data and available information, a part of the island disappears into the sea every year due to erosion.

However, Noakhali District Commissioner (DC) Tanmoy Das told Anadolu that the island is now risk-free. “Many surveys have been conducted by our Meteorological Department on Bhasan Char. Now it’s very safe”.

Mahfuzur Rahman Akhand, professor and writer of the book entitled “Rohingya Problem and Bangladesh”, told Anadolu Agency that Bangladesh government has to assure the islet will not be a new prison for persecuted Rohingyas.

Assurance of tackling danger

Most of the Rohingya refugees and experts have fears that natural disasters can wash away the resettlements in the islet, which is located on the estuary of river Meghna and the Bay of Bengal.

However, a lieutenant commander in the Bangladesh Navy told Anadolu Agency two planned embankments will encircle the project area to protect it from natural disasters.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media, he said Rohingya would live here in “hundred times better conditions” than that in squalid and teeming makeshifts at Cox’s Bazar.

He said Bangladeshi prime minister will inaugurate the project within possible shortest time.

“Now the finishing of housing project is ongoing. We are ready to receive Rohingyas any time,” the navy commander said.

He said Rohingya refugees will be relocated gradually, like 1,000 per week, thus, it will take months to complete the relocation process.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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