Authorities in Bangladesh have controversially decided to encamp tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees from neighboring Myanmar at a remote offshore location.
A committee comprising state officials in the coastal districts of Bangladesh has been set up to direct authorities to help identify undocumented Myanmarese refugees and relocate them to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, media reported on Monday.
“The committee will assist transferring both registered and unregistered refugees from Myanmar to Thengar Char near Hatiya Island in Noakhali district,” according to an order issued by the Cabinet Division last week.
The order says all the refugees will be relocated to Hatiya Island and required to stay there.
“It has to be assured by taking preventive measures that they (refugees) cannot spread out and mix with the locals,” further read the order, emphasizing, “The identified refugees should be arrested or pushed back to the camps if they try to go out beyond the assigned boundary.”
Currently, the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh mostly live in squalid conditions in the port town of Cox’s Bazar.
Bangladesh first contemplated forcing the refugees to move to the uninhabited island in 2015.
A Rohingya Muslim woman and her son cry after being caught by Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) forces while crossing at a border checkpoint in Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh, November 21, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)
The plan has been met with an outcry from Rohingya community leaders.
Some 232,000 Rohingya asylum seeker had already sought refuge in Bangladesh when the Myanmarese military forced more than 65,000 of them to flee to Bangladesh.
The minority Muslims are already facing abuse, including torture, murder, and rape, in Myanmar, with the government laying a siege to the state where they are concentrated.
Myanmar’s military began a harsh crackdown against Rohingyas in the Rakhine State after an attack by unidentified elements on the country’s border guards on October 9 last year left nine police officers dead. The government blamed the attack on the Rohingya.
Persecution of the Rohingya Muslims in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar has been going on for years.