No relocation date has been given just yet, as, despite the tiny island being ready for families to move onto, UN technical experts still need to carry out health and safety checks.
“Although everything is ready on the ground, we are yet to fix a date to begin the relocation process,” Shah Kamal, senior secretary of the Bangladeshi Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, told Arab News.
A UN visit to the island was scheduled in November last year to assess the safety of facilities and amenities on offer, but the inspection was stopped after Bangladesh asked the UN to explain the reasons for the checks.
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“The UN is yet to finalise its technical expert team. Once it has, we will organise the assessment visit,” Kamal said.
The tiny island of Bhasan Char is located in the Bay of Bengal. In recent months, international rights organisations have urged Bangladesh not to relocate the Rohingya to the island due to the island being in an area prone to cyclones.
But Bangladesh authorities say the island is safe and includes barracks to house the refugees, cyclone centres, schools, hospitals, mosques, community centres and children’s playgrounds.
After international pressure, Dhaka said it would only move refugees who had volunteered to move to the island. “So far, we have enrolled 5,200 families who have registered voluntarily for the relocation and the total refugee number will be around 30,000,” Kamal added.
The UN says it has sent the Bangladeshi government its details regarding the technical team’s visit to the island.
“We are awaiting confirmation from the government regarding alternative dates, as we have shared relevant information with the government of Bangladesh regarding the objectives of the proposed onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process,” Louise Donavan, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at Cox’s Bazar, told Arab News.
“The UN has emphasised the importance of undertaking independent and thorough technical and protection assessments that consider safety, sustainability and protection issues prior to any relocation taking place. The assessment process should include onsite visits to Bhasan Char,” she added.
Bangladesh has spent $275 million to build facilities on the island and make it habitable.
Bangladesh currently hosts more than 1,150,000 Rohingya in overcrowded camps at Cox’s Bazar – the largest refugee settlement in the world.
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