dpa/GNA – Bangladesh has moved a third group of Rohingya refugees to an offshore island in the Bay of Bengal from a crowded refugee camp in its south-eastern district of Cox’s Bazar, officials said on Friday.
Four navy ships carrying 1,778 refugees reached the Bhasan Char island in the afternoon as part of the government’s refugee relocation plan, said Mohammad Shamsudduza, the deputy head of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission.
He said the new group will join more than 3,500 others who were previously moved to a housing settlement built on the island for the Rohingya Muslims.
Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, head of the relocation project, said the refugees were taken to the island only after they voluntarily expressed willingness to live in the newly built settlement.
“They come to the island from a crowded camp hoping for a better living condition,” Chowdhury added.
However, rights groups have voiced concerns that the island, which emerged only two decades ago, is regularly submerged by monsoon rain and vulnerable to cyclones every year.
The island is located some 35 kilometres from the mainland.
Amid criticism from the international rights watchdogs, the government in early December sent the first batch of refugees to the island, with a second group arriving at the end of the month.
Bangladesh has been hosting more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in crowded camps in its south-eastern Cox’s Bazar district after they fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The South Asian country invested almost 350 million dollars to build infrastructure for the refugees’ temporary accommodation on the island, including flood protection embankments, villages, hospitals, cyclone shelters and mosques.