Rohingya Refugees Describe the Conditions on Bhasan Char

(New York) – The Bangladesh government has relocated nearly 20,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island without adequate health care, livelihoods, or protection, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The United Nations and donor governments should urgently call for an independent assessment of the safety, disaster preparedness, and habitability at Bhasan Char during the impending monsoon season and beyond.

The 58-page report, “‘An Island Jail in the Middle of the Sea’: Bangladesh’s Relocation of Rohingya Refugees to Bhasan Char,” finds that Bangladesh authorities transferred many refugees to the island without full, informed consent and have prevented them from returning to the mainland. While the government says it wants to move at least 100,000 people to the silt island in the Bay of Bengal to ease overcrowding in Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, humanitarian experts have raised concerns that insufficient measures are in place to protect against severe cyclones and tidal surges. Refugees on the island reported inadequate health care and education, onerous movement restrictions, food shortages, a lack of livelihood opportunities, and abuses by security forces.

Transcript

These Rohingya refugees are being relocated to Bhasan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal.

The Bangladesh government has promised them relief from overcrowded camps on the mainland and better living conditions.

But the reality on the isolated island is very different.

Rohingya woman:
They lured us with the promise of good health care facilities, good food. But after coming here I find that we are not given proper health care or medicines.

Rohingya Muslims fled the atrocities of the Myanmar military and found refuge in Bangladesh.

A government plan to relocate up to 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char has begun despite the lack of a proper safety inspection by independent UN experts

Bhasan Char’s shorelines have changed rapidly since it emerged in the delta 20 years ago.

The silt island is at high risk of flooding because some of the world’s deadliest cyclones occur in the Bay of Bengal.

Healthcare facilities are extremely limited, and refugees in need of emergency care are hours away from the nearest mainland hospital.

Rohingya woman:
My child was suffering from pneumonia. She used to get oxygen support, injections and proper medicine [while in the camp]. She used to get oxygen support, injections and proper medicine [while in the camp]. My child died from pneumonia.

Interviewer:
Your child died of pneumonia?

Rohingya woman:
Yes.

The refugees said they are not receiving proper food.

Rohingya woman:
We have been suffering due to food shortage. They promised to give us a lot more food, but we are not given enough so we are suffering a lot.

There is no access to formal education for children, despite promises.

Bangladesh authorities should stop relocations immediately and allow people to return to mainland camps if they want to.

The government should allow UN agencies to determine the island’s safety.

Rohingya protesters on Bhasan Char:
We don’t want to live here, don’t want to live here! Oh my brothers, oh my journalist friends around the world, I earnestly request you a thousand times, please take us from here [Bhasan Char]! We are ill-treated and we cannot endure it anymore!

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