Mohammad Al-Masum Molla:
The second batch of Rohingya refugees are likely to be relocated to Bhasan Char at the end of this month, officials said.
“A total of 700-1000 Rohingya refugees are scheduled to be relocated on December 28 or 29 and Bhasan Char has been readied to receive them,” Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, director of the Ashrayan-3 Project (the official title of the Bhasan Char project), told The Daily Star yesterday.
The first batch of refugees, consisting 1,642 Rohingyas, were relocated to the char on the 4th of this month.
The Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) is arranging the relocation process amid concerns of the international community about the island being a risky place for the refugees to live.
Rohingyas of the first batch expressed their satisfaction and said they chose to move to the facilities — being built under a Tk 3,100 crore housing project by the Bangladesh Navy –for safety and comfort.
They added that not only were the living conditions poor in their makeshift homes in the Cox’s Bazar camps, fighting between rival gangs had made their lives even more difficult.
They believe they can live a better life on the char with greater access to healthcare, education and work.
Compared to the cramped conditions in the camps, the housing project is a better option, they said.
In the camps, a family of 6-8 people would have to live together within a 400-square foot space.
On Bhasan Char, which appeared in 2006, the constructed building are equipped with electricity and solar panels as well as biogas plants and functioning mobile networks. The houses have been built four feet above ground with concrete blocks.
Each building will house 16 families of four in its 16 rooms, providing more than the UN stipulated 37 square feet per head, project officials said.
The United Nations and other development partners, however, expressed concerns and demanded independent assessments of the housing project before relocation began.
A UN team has still not been allowed to visit the island.
The UN and rights groups have been questioning the relocation plan, saying the island was prone to floods and could be submerged during high tides.