DHAKA — Dozens of starving Rohingya refugees landed on the southern coast of Bangladesh on Sunday, as fears grow for hundreds more left stranded at sea for weeks, after Bangladeshi authorities cut off port access during the Coronavirus pandemic.
In April, more than 60 Rohingya died aboard a boat with hundreds of refugees on board, after authorities in Malaysia and Thailand denied them entry, citing Coronavirus fears.
The United Nations is calling on governments to allow Rohingya fleeing persecution in Burma to dock, as weather forecasters warn a tropical cyclone may form over the Bay of Bengal this week.
According to reports, dozens of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea for weeks have been relocated to a controversial flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh officials said on Monday.
Bangladesh last year constructed facilities for 100,000 people on Bhashan Char, a muddy silt islet in the cyclone-prone coastal belt, saying they needed to take pressure off crowded border camps that are home to almost one million Rohingya.
The 28 Rohingya were taken to the island late on Saturday instead of the camps as authorities were afraid they might be infected with the Coronavirus, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen told AFP.
“Most likely they will stay there until they return to Myanmar,” reports TheStar.
Bangladesh had refused to let the two trawlers carrying about 500 people land on its territory despite UN calls to allow them in as a powerful storm bears down on the region.
So far, no Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the sprawling camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar that house Rohingya who fled a 2017 military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar.
The plan to move the refugees to Bhashan Char has been staunchly opposed by the Rohingya community.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Sunday that comprehensive assessments were needed before anyone is moved to the island, spokeswoman Louise Donovan told AFP.
“UNHCR has all preparations in place to ensure the safe quarantine of any refugees arriving by boat to Cox’s Bazar, as a precautionary measure related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.