28 November 2017, 13:06 UTC
The Bangladesh government must abandon all plans to relocate more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees on to an uninhabitable island, Amnesty International said today.
On Tuesday, the Bangladesh government approved a $280 million plan to develop the isolated, flood-prone and uninhabitable Thenger Char to temporarily house Rohingya refugees until they are repatriated to Myanmar.
“It would be a terrible mistake to relocate the Rohingya refugees to an uninhabitable island that is far from other refugee settlements and vulnerable to flooding,” said Biraj Patnaik, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
“Having opened its doors to more than 600,000 Rohingya over the past three months, the Bangladesh government now risks undermining the protection of the Rohingya and squandering the international goodwill it has earned. In its desperation to see the Rohingya leave the camps and ultimately return to Myanmar, it is putting their safety and well-being at risk.”
The Thenger Char, also known as Bhashan Char island, only emerged into view 11 years ago. During monsoon season, it is highly vulnerable to flooding.
The humanitarian community has warned of the dangers to the Rohingya refugees if they are relocated to what is widely considered an uninhabitable island - located two hours away from the nearest settlement, making it harder for humanitarian assistance to reach the refugees.
Last week, the Bangladesh government signed a deal with the Myanmar government to repatriate the more than 700,000 refugees who fled unlawful killings, rape and the burning down of entire villages in northern Rakhine State during military attacks in October 2016 and August 2017.
Amnesty International recently published a detailed analysis into the root causes of the plight of the Rohingya, establishing that they have been trapped in a vicious system of state-sponsored, institutionalized discrimination that amounts to apartheid.
“Bangladesh should postpone any repatriation agreement until conditions are in place for refugees to return voluntarily and in safety and dignity,” said Biraj Patnaik.