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Homebound Rohingyas dread island relocation plan

  • Published at 08:02 pm March 8th, 2017
  • Last updated at 08:04 pm March 8th, 2017
Homebound Rohingyas dread island relocation plan
Thousands of Rohingya refugees have returned home because of a Dhaka plan to house them on an uninhabited flood-prone island Noakhali’s Hatia upazila, community leaders said Wednesday. Nearly 73,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since last October, when government forces in Myanmar unleashed a bloody crackdown on the Muslim minority. Many told horrific stories of villages being burned and women gang-raped. Most headed to the already overcrowded refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. The influx led Dhaka to resurrect a plan to relocate refugees to an undeveloped island of Thengarchar in the Bay of Bengal. [caption id="attachment_45719" align="aligncenter" width="800"]A view of the Thengar Char island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, February 2, 2017Reuters A view of the Thengar Char island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh, February 2, 2017 Reuters[/caption] Community leaders said more than 5,000 Rohingya had now returned to the Buddhist-majority nation despite the risk of persecution. "They chose to die by bullets than to be killed by nature," community leader Noor Hafiz said. "People became very concerned after they learnt about the relocation plan. We heard the island submerges during the monsoon. Now we can only hope the situation back home is better." Hafiz said 3,000 people had left his camp, while another 2,000 people had left two separate newly-built makeshift refugee camps. "They said they don't want to die in flash floods," said Dudu Mia, a Rohingya who heads another camp called Leda. [caption id="attachment_49967" align="aligncenter" width="800"]A Rohingya refugee girl peeks through a hole made in a plastic wall dividing the shelters at Balu Kali Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, on February 28, 2017 Reuters A Rohingya refugee girl peeks through a hole made in a plastic wall dividing the shelters at Balu Kali Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, on February 28, 2017 Reuters[/caption] The Bay of Bengal is frequently hit by cyclones. Rights groups have dismissed the plan to populate the island of Thengar Char with refugees as "ridiculous". Nonetheless the Bangladesh government has ordered the construction of a jetty, helipad and visitor facilities on the 2,430-hectare island. Last week it began a Rohingya census as part of its relocation campaign after seeking international support for the plan. Bangladesh says some 400,000 Rohingya are now living in squalid conditions at refugee camps in the country, although most predate the recent unrest in Myanmar. A Border Guard Bangladesh official also said growing numbers of Rohingya were returning, although he gave a much lower figure. [caption id="attachment_45255" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Rohingya children, deprived and malnourished, are gasping for a little space to play at a refugee camp for in Ukhia's Kutubpalong Abdul Aziz/Dhaka Tribune Rohingya children, deprived and malnourished, are gasping for a little space to play at a refugee camp for in Ukhia's Kutubpalong Abdul Aziz/Dhaka Tribune[/caption] "Last month 48 refugees notified us they were leaving Bangladesh for home," BGB’s major Abu Russell Siddique said. "This month, in a week, the number has reached 235." Siddique said parts of Myanmar's Rakhine state, where most of the country's Rohingya live, were now stable. "As far as we know, only people from the villages which were unaffected (by the crackdown) are returning," he said.
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