Nearly 1,000 refugees are due to be transferred to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal amid opposition from rights groups.
Bangladesh has started moving a second group of Rohingya refugees to a controversial flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal despite opposition from human rights activists.
More than 1,600 members of Myanmar’s Muslim minority were taken to Bhashan Char earlier this month, and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said just under 1,000 belonged to the latest group moving towards what ‘he called it a’ beautiful seaside resort ‘.
Buses have taken the Rohingya from camps in Cox’s Bazar, where nearly a million refugees have sought refuge from the violence in their native Myanmar, to the port of Chittagong where they will be taken to the barren island.
“They are leaving voluntarily. They are very anxious to go to Bhashan Char because they heard from their relatives, those who went to Bhashan Char, say that (it is) an excellent place, ”Momen told AFP on Monday.
He claimed that the island was “100 times better” than the camps and that the refugees had “appealed” to be taken there.
“Bhashan Char is a beautiful seaside resort. It is an excellent seaside resort. And once someone goes there, they will love it, ”added the Minister.
Two Rohingya men from the last group told AFP they were voluntarily traveling to the island.
Nur Kamal, a Rohingya man from the giant Kutupalang refugee camp, said he was going to be with relatives already in Bhashan Char: “What’s the point of staying here (in the camps) without them?”
Serajul Islam said he was leaving voluntarily, along with five members of his family.
“The way the international community is dealing with our problem, I see no future in the camps,” he told AFP from the bus that took him to Chittagong.
“I had better go and live the rest of my life there, in better accommodation. At least I won’t have to think about the floods in the rainy season and the unbearable heat in the summer.
More than 700,000 Rohingya took refuge in camps in Bangladesh in 2017 after a deadly crackdown by the Burmese military that the United Nations says could amount to genocide.
After the first transfer on December 4, several Rohingya told AFP they had been beaten and intimidated into agreeing to move.
The Bangladeshi government ultimately wants to settle 100,000 Rohingyas on the 13,000-acre (56 km 2) island, despite criticism from rights groups over Bhashan Char’s isolation.
The UN said it had not been involved in the process.
“Community allegations of cash incentives offered to Rohingya families to settle in Bhashan Char as well as the use of intimidation tactics make the resettlement process questionable,” said the Amnesty activist. International for South Asia, Saad Hammadi.
Foreign Minister Momen said critics of the policy “made up stories”.