United Nations sends first team to Bangladesh island since Rohingya relocation


dpa/GNA – A United Nations team has started visiting Bangladesh’s remote island in the Bay of Bengal where more than 13,000 persecuted Rohingya Muslims have been relocated amid criticism from rights groups, officials said on Wednesday.

Local government official Khurshed Alam Khan said the delegation arrived on Bhasan Char island in the afternoon to see physically the conditions of the relocated refugees.

This is the first visit by any UN team since Bangladesh began relocating refugees to the island in December from overcrowded camps in the south-eastern Cox’s Bazar district.

Bangladesh has planned the relocation of 100,000 out of more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims, who fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar, to the island from the mainland camps.

Nearly 750,000 of them crossed the border after Buddhist-majority Myanmar launched a military crackdown against the minority group in 2017.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said the government-facilitated trip to the island will take place between Wednesday and Saturday.

“This initial three-day visit will bring together experts from UN agencies engaged in the Rohingya refugee response in Bangladesh,” Louise Donovan, spokesperson of the UN refugee agency in Bangladesh, said.

The experts will look at the current situation and facilities at the island, apprise the needs of the relocated refugees, and discuss with the authorities and others currently working on Bhasan Char, she said.

Bangladesh says the island is the best option available and the relocation was based on the willingness of the refugees.

But rights organizations say that the island is regularly submerged by monsoon rain and vulnerable to cyclones every year.

Bangladesh invested almost 350 million dollars in infrastructure on the island, located some 35 kilometres from the mainland.

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