Brain Booster for UPSC & State PCS Examination (Topic: Rohingya Refugees Relocated to Bhasan Char Island)

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Topic: Rohingya Refugees Relocated to Bhasan Char Island

Rohingya Refugees Relocated to Bhasan Char Island

Why in News?

  • Bangladesh has begun relocating Rohingyas from refugee camps near Ukhia in Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh to Bhasan Char -- an island in the Bay of Bengal.


  • Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority, had fled neighbouring Myanmar in 2017 during Myanmar army crackdown against a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which Myanmar said was a Islamist terrorist group.
  • Last November, Gambia, with backing from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, took Myanmar to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for violating the 1948 Genocide Convention. State counsellor Aug San Suu Kyi represented Mynanmar at the hearings.
  • UN-appointed “independent international fact finding committee” said “[t]he horrors inflicted on Rohingya men, women and children during the August 2017 operations, including their indiscriminate killing, rise to the level of both war crimes and crimes against humanity”.
  • After May 2017, the refugees poured in from the state of Rakhine, first at Gundum, south of Ukhia. The entire Ukhia sub-district was overflowing by September 2017.
  • The refugees' exodus was at such a great pace that the Bangladesh government had to establish another area of Teknaf, south of the Ukhia refugee camp.
  • The camps in Cox's Bazar area were crowded but the Rohingyas had begun to settle down with UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and WHO supporting the campaign.

Current Scenario

  • It is estimated that more than 8 lakh Rohingya, live in the camps at Cox’s Bazar in unhygienic conditions. Bangladesh’s plan is to move some 1 lakh refugees to Bhasan Char, 39 km from Naokhali on the mainland.
  • Opposing Bangladesh's move to relocate thousands of Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, humanitarian and human rights groups said the island is flood-prone and vulnerable to frequent cyclones.
  • They also repeatedly raised concerns over the habitability of the island and whether refugees living there would have access to food, water, medical care, and education.
  • Bangladesh says transporting refugees to Bhasan Char will ease chronic overcrowding in its camps at Cox's Bazar, which are home to more than one million Rohingya.

Bhasan Char Island

  • Bhasan Char is less an island and more mud flat, and is vulnerable to going under water from tides and flooding.
  • The refugees can remain isolated from the general public, easing the task of the Bangladesh administration.
  • The construction of housing for the refugees began in 2018 with a proper doublemoated barricade all around, supposedly for preventing flood waters.
  • The outer moat is 40m wide and the inner one is about 60m wide with about 50m wide raised berm with a road on top, probably for patrolling.
  • The dangers of storms and cyclones are compounded on this remote island of Bhasan Char since it is the southern-most island directly facing the Bay of Bengal.
  • The government has built shelters, hospitals and masjids.

Facilities at the Island

  • According to a report in the Bangladesh newspaper Daily Sun, 1,440 houses have been constructed at 4 m height from the land, and can accommodate around 100,000 people.
  • Officials told the media that people relocated to the island can engage in farming and livestock breeding, but will not be able to “transact money” as Bangladesh is yet to officially recognise them as refugees and refers
    to them only as “stateless” people.
  • Of 120 shelters, 20 are allocated for civil administration, learning centres, mosques, community clinics, day-care centres, orphanage etc.
  • The Bangladesh government with help of UNHCR and other organisations created a proper camp for the refugees.
  • The plan has been in the making since 2017. In 2018, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said it would be a temporary measure.