The Bangladesh government has said it is “dismayed” by “misinformation” on the relocation of the Rohingya to the Bhasan Char island from Cox’s Bazar refugee camps

After the second batch of 1,804 Rohingya spent their first night at a housing project at the island in Noakhali’s Hatia following their relocation, the government on Wednesday thanked the civil society and nongovernment organisations that are partnering in the relocation efforts.

The government expects involvement of more organisations to open their operations in Bhasan Char, said a statement from the foreign ministry.

The government reiterated its stance on the involvement of the UN in the process and said it is ready to facilitate participation of the UN as per its mandate.

“However, the government is dismayed to see the generation of distorted and misinformation surrounding Bhasan Char and the relocation process,” the statement said.

“It is also disheartening that instead of appreciating the good intention of Bangladesh, some quarters have resorted to orchestrating misinformation to create confusion among the international community,” it added.

The numerous challenges associated with the temporary hosting of the persecuted Rohingya from Myanmar have “compelled” the government to plan relocation of 100,000 refugees to the island.

Accordingly, 1,642 refugees were relocated to Bhasan Char on Dec 4 in the first batch.

The government said it “strictly” followed the principle of voluntariness and maintained “utmost transparency” in the relocation process.

“There was no question of the use of force, intimidation or the use of money to influence the decision of the participants,” the foreign ministry said.

It noted that initially the authorities arranged for the relocation of a lesser number of Rohingya in the second batch but an “increased interest and enthusiasm” of the refuges led more Rohingya to volunteer and participate in the relocation process “willingly”.

The relocation took place in the presence of representatives of media, civil society and NGOs. “None of them raised any question of coercion or use of force. Rather, when interviewed, the Rohingya informed that they were encouraged by the positive reports on Bhasan Char that were shared with them by their relatives who were already in the island,” the statement said.

The government emphasised that Bhasan Char is “completely safe and suitable for human habitation”. The island that surfaced 30 years ago has “all the amenities”, including healthcare, drinking water, options for economic activities and cyclone shelters.

The island offers enough space for the free movement of the Rohingya, the government said. Bangladesh Inland water transport corporation has already introduced regular sea-truck services between Bhasan Char and Noakhali.

It is a known fact that the geographic location of Bangladesh has exposed the country to regular natural disasters like cyclone and flood. However, the country’s resilience in the face of natural disaster is well-acclaimed. Over the years, Bangladesh has developed effective disaster management system. For Bhashan Char,

Considering that Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country, “much better” infrastructure has been built in Bhasan Char with involvement of “renowned international companies”.

The British firm HR Wallingford was involved in the stability survey of the island, which was developed as per their recommendation and design.

The flood and shore protection measures with 12.1 km long and sufficiently higher embankment designed by the HR Wallingford secures the island from massive tidal waves and cyclones, according to the statement.

“This is supplemented by the installation of modern hydrographic monitoring and warning system that can provide early warning on any natural hazards and enable prior evacuation.

The efficacy and strength of the infrastructure of Bhasan Char and its disaster protection measures have been tested during the deadly cyclone Amphan.

The government said it has also ensured sufficient safety measures for the Rohingya in Bhasan Char.

The island is under 24-hour CCTV coverage. Deployment of law enforcement agencies, female police personnel, hospitals and community clinics fully manned with trained health professionals, including female health professionals, have ensured the security of the inhabitants of the island.

Since the relocation of the first batch, three new births took place in the island and all the new-born along with their mothers are in good health.

Efforts are also underway to involve the relocated Rohingya in various livelihood activities such as fishing and farming.

A high-level committee, under the direct supervision of the principal secretary, has been monitoring the activities in Bhasan Char.

“As we repeatedly mentioned, the problem is created by Myanmar and its solution lies solely with Myanmar. Therefore, instead of mounting undue and unjustified pressure on Bangladesh, the international community including the UN/INGOs/international humanitarian and human rights organisations must focus on the egregious human rights violations that the Rohingyas have been facing for generations in Myanmar,” the government said.

The UN should send a technical and protection assessment team to Myanmar to assess the situation of the existing Rohingya and also to see the preparation for repatriation on the ground, it added.

“It should be remembered that Rohingya are Myanmar nationals. Bangladesh has been hosting them on a temporary basis purely out of humanitarian gesture. Any arrangement in Bangladesh for the Rohingya is solely temporary in nature.

“The Rohingya want to return to their homeland- Myanmar and all need to work constructively to that end. Now that the election of Myanmar is over, we look forward to visible engagement of the international community with Myanmar for an urgent and early repatriation of these displaced and persecuted Myanmar nationals to their homeland,” the statement said.

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