A group of nearly 1,800 refugee Rohingyas set sail for Bhasan Char Thursday, as part of the government's plan to relocate them to the remote Bay of Bengal island from crammed camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Five vessels of the Bangladesh Navy carrying 1,759 Rohingyas left the Patenga Naval jetty in Chattogram for the island in the morning, said Additional Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner Md Shamsuzzaman Nayan.
On Wednesday, some 2,257 Rohingyas were taken to Bhasan Char under the fifth phase of the relocation programme. These refugees had been living in camps at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, said Nayan.
"A total of 4,016 Rohingyas were brought to Chattogram from Cox’s Bazar in the last two days," he added.
So far, 9,540 Rohingyas have been relocated to the island in four phases, sources at the Office of the Refugee Relief & Repatriation Commissioner said.
The fourth batch was shifted to Bhasan Char on February 15. The first batch was taken to the island on December 4 last year.
Where is Bhasan Char?
Located 34 kilometres off the mainland, the island surfaced 20 years ago and was never inhabited.
Contractors say its infrastructure is like a modern township, with multi-family concrete homes, schools, playgrounds and roads. It also has solar-power facilities, a water supply system and cyclone shelters.
The island has all the modern amenities and a police station was also set up there recently.
Bangladesh spent millions of dollars to develop Bhasan Char and plans to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas there in phases in the face of growing concerns over the extreme congestion in Cox’s Bazar camps and to avert any untoward incident.
The Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
Members of the mainly Muslim majority ethnic minority are denied citizenship by Myanmar and many are forced to live in squalid camps in apartheid-like condition. State-sponsored discrimination against the Rohingyas stretches decades back.
Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas. The majority of them came here in August 2017, fleeing persecution in their homeland of Rakhine state in Myanmar.
Bangladesh has long been urging the global community to take effective steps to put pressure on Myanmar to create a congenial atmosphere for Rohingya repatriation but there has been little progress so far.
The presence of the huge number of Rohingya refugees in the coastal district has put them on a collision course with the locals. Many Rohingyas have allegedly got involved in various criminal activities.