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Bangladesh moves first group of Rohingya refugees to island

Bangladesh has relocated a first group of Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said on Friday, amid criticism from international rights groups.

Dhaka, 4 December 2020 (dpa/MIA) — Bangladesh has relocated a first group of Rohingya refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said on Friday, amid criticism from international rights groups.

Navy ships in the afternoon took 384 men, 464 women and 810 children to Bhashan Char island as part of a planned relocation program, local government official Khorshed Alam Khan said.

The refugees were sent to newly built villages after they got an initial health check upon their arrival, he added.

Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry said the first group of refugees was voluntarily relocated from the crowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, where they had been staying.

“The relocation has become imperative to decongest the overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar that have temporarily been accommodating nearly a million of Rohingyas with many more thousands born each year,” the statement said, referring to the government’s plan to move nearly 100,000 refugees in phases onto Bhashan Char island.

Bangladesh has been hosting more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in crowded camps in the south-eastern Cox’s Bazar district after they fled persecution in neighboring Myanmar. Nearly 750,000 of them crossed the border after Myanmar launched a military crackdown in August 2017.

Bangladesh says it invested almost 350 million dollars to build infrastructure for the refugees’ temporary accommodation on the island, including flood protection embankments, villages, hospitals, cyclone shelters and mosques.

But rights groups voiced concerns, saying that the island, which emerged only two decades ago, is regularly submerged by monsoon rain and vulnerable to cyclones every year.

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