Bhasan Char safe for Rohingya: study

Amenities, sustainability of Ashrayan project, disaster management, livelihoods and various aspects of human rights have made the Bhasan Char island in Noakhali safe for inhabitation, according to a study.
The researchers of Dhaka University’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies say that a three-stage system will protect the refugees from tides and storms.

The government has relocated more than 12,000 Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar camps to the remote island in Noakhali in five phases as part of a plan to shift about 100,000 displaced Myanmar nationals.

International groups, including the United Nations, have expressed concern over the voluntary relocation of the refugees and their safety on the island.

The government has defended the plan saying the numerous challenges associated with the temporary hosting of the persecuted Rohingya from Myanmar have “compelled” it to plan the relocation.

To allay the concerns, the government said it “strictly” followed the principle of voluntariness and maintained “utmost transparency” in relocation.

It also noted that any arrangement in Bangladesh for the Rohingya is solely temporary in nature and they must eventually be repatriated to Myanmar, their homeland.

The study backs the government’s claim of safety and improved standard of life for the refugees on the island.

Funded by the Central Foundation for International Strategic Studies, the researchers conducted the study in a qualitative method by visiting the island and the camps in Cox’s Bazar from November last year to February this year. They also took experts to the island for their opinion on the Ashrayan project and habitability of the island.
Professor Dr Rafiqul Islam, who led the study, said at the publication of the report at a seminar in the university on Saturday that the camps in Cox’s Bazar lack space, livelihoods, and facilities related to healthcare, cooking, power and other essentials.

Security has not been ensured equally throughout the camps, while it is becoming more difficult to ensure human rights for the huge number of refugees, he said.

“The camp area is becoming dangerous for them,” Prof Rafiqul said, noting that fights, drugs smuggling, illegal arms, prostitution and human trafficking are growing in the camps.

“Bhasan Char is comparatively safe for the displaced Rohingya,” he said.

The researchers have recommended drinking water supply, education and diversification in livelihoods for the refugees on the island.