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Avellon Williams 

DHAKA, BANGLADESH- A mutual agreement was signed between the United Nations and Bangladesh’s government to work in collaboration to help Rohingya refugees on a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, where thousands have been relocated from crammed camps near the Myanmar border.

A general view of the housing complex at the Bhasan Char Island / Courtesy/

According to the UN, one of the main reasons to sign the agreement was to instantly start serving that population of some 19,000 Rohingya who has already been moved to Bhasan Char Island by the government.

The agreement came as a paradigm shift after the UN and humanitarian groups criticized the possible relocation, saying the 30-year-old island regularly submerged by monsoon rains was not for habitation.

But, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s elected government has spent more than $112 million on development, adding sea walls, hospitals, schools, and mosques, and insists it is no more a vulnerable area. 

Already, specific plans have typically started to voluntarily relocate 100,000 in phases from crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district.

An official statement, by the UN High Commissioner, for refugees said the agreement was a further expression of Bangladesh’s “generosity and support toward the Rohingyapopulation until they can return safely and sustainably to Myanmar.”

A Rohingya refugee along with a child is pictured inside the room of a housing complex at Bhasan Char Island after they were relocated in December last year /Courtesy/

” These cover key areas of protection, education, skills training,livelihood, and health, which will help support the refugees to lead decent lives on the island and better prepare them for sustainable return to Myanmar in the future,” according to the statement.

UNHCR Johannes Van der Klaauw / Courtesy/

Another official representative at the UNHCR Johannes Van der Klaauw said the organization has seen the island and believes Bangladesh’s government has added “significant infrastructure” to offset environmental hazards. The agreement also allows refugees to move back and forth between the island and the main camps in Cox’s Bazar, he said.

Noting that the movement to Bhasan Char would be on an informed and voluntary basis, Van der Klaaw indicated that refugees will also have a chance to earn a living through odd jobs that will be accessible once aid organisation is set up on the Island.


But at this considerable time, most Rohingya refugees wisely say they do not want to relocate, as many miraculously escaped on boats back to the camp because. Life on the island is hard for the refugees.

According to reliable sources, “if people stay there for a couple of years, all of them might start having mental issues”, adding that medical and other aid facilities were not very well set up on the island.

Bangladesh has been sheltering 1.1 million Rohingya from Myanmar, including more than 700,000 who fled a hard military crackdown on the Muslim-majority ethnic group in August 2017 following an attack by rebels. PM Hasin says her administration will not force them to return.

The Rohingya are not recognised as citizens in Myanmar, rendering them stainless, and face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination.

UN-sponsored investigation in 2018 recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on possible charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for the violence against the Rohingya.

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Avellon Williams

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