Reject Rohingya Refugee Relocation Plan

(New York) – The Bangladeshi government should immediately drop its plan to transfer Rohingya refugees to an uninhabited, undeveloped coastal island, Human Rights Watch said today. Relocating the refugees from the Cox’s Bazar area to Thengar Char island would deprive them of their rights to freedom of movement, livelihood, food and education, in violation of Bangladesh’s obligations under international human rights law.

Between 300,000 and 500,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees, most of them unregistered by the authorities, are in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution in Burma dating back to the 1990s. Since October 2016, nearly 69,000 Rohingya from Rakhine State in Burma have entered Bangladesh to escape attacks by Burmese security forces, including unlawful killings, sexual violence and wholesale destruction of villages.

EXPAND Rohingya refugees look on inside their house at Balukhali Makeshift Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, February 8, 2017.
© Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
“The Bangladesh government is making the ridiculous claim that relocating Rohingya refugees to an island with absolutely no facilities that is deluged at high tide and submerged during the monsoon season will improve their living conditions,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “This proposal is both cruel and unworkable and should be abandoned.”

The plan to move long-term refugees to Thengar Char was first suggested in 2015, but was shelved after widespread condemnation.