The recent signing of an MOU between the Bangladesh government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), affirming the latter’s willingness to help in the ongoing relocation of Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, is welcome news—albeit a couple of years delayed.
For more than two years, the Bangladesh government, wisely, has been talking about relocating the Rohingyas—at least a segment of them—from the squalid, unhygienic, unsafe, and severely overpopulated camps located in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf and Kutupalong areas, to the much healthier and habitable island of Bhashan Char. The aim was to ensure a better quality of life for this group of people, who are victims of mass persecution and ethnic cleansing in their own homeland—Myanmar.
It took a while for the Bangladesh government to put the necessary infrastructure in place, which included constructing houses of better quality, putting healthcare facilities in place, ensuring their safety and security, possibilities for generating economic activities, and even education facilities. The process was meant to be temporary, while all efforts at ensuring the Rohingyas’ safe and dignified return to Myanmar would continue.In the last year or so, a few thousands of Rohingyas have already been relocated to Bhashan Char, with a larger number of them waiting to make the move. It is expected that over the next six months, a total of 100,000 Rohingyas would be relocated to Bhashan Char from the camps in Cox’s Bazar. The island can house up to a million people, with space to spare.By and large, the Rohingyas have been happy with the relocation. In fact, they welcomed it. The most graphic and enduring image of this was that of a young happy Rohingya man on board a Bangladeshi naval vessel, strumming on a guitar-like musical instrument while the boat sailed through the Bay of Bengal towards Bhashan Char.