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Rohingya Relocation to Bhasan Char: UN set to be on board with govt’s plan

Rohingya Relocation to Bhasan Char: UN set to be on board with govt’s plan

THURSDAY, October 07, 2021

The United Nations is finally set to get engaged in humanitarian activities for Rohingyas in Bhasan Char.

The UNHCR and the Bangladesh government will sign a memorandum of understanding on UN involvement in the humanitarian activities Saturday, officials of the disaster management and relief ministry said.

"In Bhasan Char they [UN] will do the jobs what they are doing now in Cox's Bazar for the Rohingyas. After the signing of the MoU, they will get engaged in the activities in Bhasan Char as early as possible," Secretary Md Mohsin of the ministry told The Daily Star yesterday.

The development comes following an impasse of more than a year between the government and the UN regarding the global body's technical assessment of the housing facility for Rohingyas in the island.

The MoU will be signed at the secretariat around noon Saturday in presence of top officials from both the sides. The deal will be inked by the secretary from the Bangladesh side while the UNHCR country representative will sign it on behalf of the UN side.

Mohsin said the government was planning to start relocating another 80,000 Rohingyas to the char from the camps in Cox's Bazar late this month.

"We expect that UN agencies will engage themselves in the humanitarian activities in Bhasan Char before the relocation," he said.

Earlier in the day yesterday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told journalists that the issue regarding the UN engagement in Bhasan Char was settled and that the UN could go to the island any time.

A UN team visited the island on 17-20 March this year. Later, it said the UN was grateful to the government for facilitating the visit. It also said the UN looked forward to continuing dialogue in this regard.

Former United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) president Volkan Bozkir  during his visit to Bangladesh in May highly appreciated the country's efforts for the Rohingyas in Bhasan Char. He said Bangladesh, by building the housing facilities, once again showed the world how a refugee crisis needs to be handled.

Bozkir hoped that this would work well for the Rohingya people, giving them a better living condition in Bhasan Char.

The government has already relocated some 18,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char from Cox's Bazar in phases since December last year.

Bangladesh Navy implemented the Tk 3,100 crore housing project after some 7,50,000 Rohingyas had fled a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017 and took shelter in camps in Teknaf and Ukhia.

The UN had raised concerns over risks of tidal surge and cyclone at the remote island, but the government said with 120 brick-built cluster villages and 120 cyclone shelters, flood protection embankments, facilities for education, farming and fishing, hospitals and playgrounds, the char is a much better living place than the Cox's Bazar camps.

The government also undertook projects to train 100,000 out of the nearly one million Rohingyas.

In the absence of the UN in Bhasan Char, Bangladeshi non-governmental organisations began providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas in December last year from their own fund. Since then, the government has repeatedly been urging the UN to begin its operations there.

Bhasan Char officials said separate buildings for the UN and other international aid agencies have also been constructed on the island.