Tue 24 August 2021:
The UN is set to begin its aid operations for Rohingya refugees, who have been relocated to a remote Bangladeshi island despite international oppositions on safety grounds, according to official sources on Tuesday.
“Bangladesh expects to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations (UN) next week to ensure the UN engagement for Rohingya on the Bhasan Char Island from next month (September),” Masud Bin Momen, Bangladesh foreign secretary, told Anadolu Agency.
It seems that with the engagement of the UN on the distant island for providing humanitarian aid for Rohingya, other international organizations including aid agencies will be interested to mobilize services there.
Meanwhile, quoting the foreign secretary, a local private television, Channel 24, also reported that after signing the MoU, the UN will start aid operations on the Bhasan Char Island from the second week of September.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Momen, however, added: “We are expecting so, but all depends on signing of the MoU smoothly.”
Earlier, in reply to a query by the Anadolu Agency, a Bangladesh-based official of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said the MoU signing between Bangladesh and the UN was almost in the final stage.
Concerned UN offices and officials of Bangladesh’s Foreign and Disaster Management Ministry are working on it, the UN official said, without disclosing the details and preferring anonymity as he was not the authorized person to talk to media over the issue.
Bangladesh government in several phases has relocated nearly 20,000 Rohingya to the island as part of its resettlement plan.
Spending over $350 million, the Bangladesh government has constructed 1,440 buildings, including 120 cyclone shelters, to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refugees from the mainland camps in the southern district of Cox’s Bazar.
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Rights body demands for free movement
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement on Tuesday said the Bangladesh government should permit Rohingya refugees to leave the Bhasan Char Island so they can safely reunite with their families at the refugee settlement in Cox’s Bazar.
The international rights watchdog also called on the UN not to start operations on the island with the Bangladesh government until the free movement of Rohingya is assured.
So far, 11 bodies have been recovered and 16 still missing after a boat carrying over 40 Rohingya fleeing the Bhasan Char Island was capsized in the Bay of Bengal on Aug. 14.
“At least 200 refugees attempting to escape dire conditions on Bhasan Char have been arrested since May, although aid workers suspect the actual number is much higher, and the arrests continue,” the statement noted.
Meenakshi Ganguly, the HRW’s South Asia director, said: “The arrests of Rohingya refugees trying to escape what has been described as a ‘prison island’ shows that assurances from Bangladesh authorities of voluntary relocation and freedom of movement were a hoax.”
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