Bhasan Char much better than Cox’s Bazar camps: UNHCR

Diplomatic Correspondent

3 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Lauding the Bangladesh government for making better living arrangements for the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, a visiting UN delegation has said Bhasan Char is a much better place than the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.

 “The government has made a very important investment in Bhasan Char and this is a much better place for the Rohingyas,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Raouf Mazou told reporters after their meeting with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at State Guesthouse Padma on Wednesday.

Raouf Mazou and his colleague Gillian Teiggs, Assistant High ommissioner for Refugees Protection, visited Bhasan Char in Noakhali on May 31 where Bangladesh Navy built a huge housing project for 100,000 Rohingyas, who sheltered in Bangladesh amid genocide in Myanmar.

Gillian Triggs, the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, said they are here to work and support the government in ensuring the protection of these Rohingyas.

Raouf Mazou said they are with the government of Bangladesh and they always work with the government. "We are present in Cox's Bazar. We will continue to be present in various places around the country and will work with the government to ensure assistance to Rohingyas."

He said anybody may feel isolated in Bhasan Char but they must have economic activities apart from education and healthcare facilities. According to the official estimate, some 20,000 Rohingyas from Cox's Bazar were relocated in the Char since the relocation started in December 2020.

Initially, the UN and other international NGOs and right bodies were critical about the relocation and are to engage in Bhasan Char.

During the visit of the two UNHCR officials, several thousands Rohingyas staged demonstration to press for their demand of livelihood, money and third country resettlement.

Raouf Mazou said, "It is clear that when you live in an island like Bhasan Char, you feel isolated. Therefore, you must first have economic activity." "We must make sure that they have education, healthcare and make sure they are not idle."

It is an opportunity that should be used the best before they return to Myanmar, said the UNHCR official.

When asked when the UN is going to begin operations in Bhasan Char, Raouf Mazou said they are in discussion over this with the government. It is the UNHCR mandate to work with the government to help the refugees wherever they are, he said.

Asked about third country resettlement, the UNHCR officials said there is an opportunity for a third country settlement that can be explored -- very small numbers -- but it is not a long-term solution. The UN will continue to work with the Myanmar authorities and pursue it for Rohingya repatriation, Gillian Triggs said.

In reply to another question about how the UN is working with Myanmar government, she said they are working on some projects to improve the conditions in Rakhine but added that now it is a very difficult political situation in Myanmar.

Foreign Minister Momen told reporters that they have been trying hard for the repatriation of Rohingyas as Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas. "It's almost four years," he said, adding that the UNHCR officials saw the plight of Rohingyas who are very frustrated due to delay in repatriation.

Momen urged the UNHCR to give more focus on Rakhine State and take Rohingya leaders to Rakhine to allow them to see the situation there. He said the military government in Myanmar might listen to the UN if much pressure is given resulting in hope for repatriation.