Bangladesh/Myanmar Border — Recently, Bangladesh began a $280 million plan to relocate the massive influx of Rohingya refugees to an island that Amnesty International’s South Asia Director, Biraj Patnaik, has described as “uninhabitable.” He said pushing them out that way would be a “terrible mistake” as it is quite the distance from the other camps and the area is prone to flooding. This is especially a problem when monsoon season inevitably rolls around, and the island is reportedly largely made of silt, was only recently formed and can submerge during high tide.
Aid workers on the ground have consistently told SOFREP that there is a fear that Bangladesh will wait until the public gets tired of watching the crisis endlessly unfold, which will allow them to relax in their efforts to accommodate the refugees even with basic, livable conditions. This relocation seems to be one of such efforts, and seems to be a case of “out of sight, out of mind” for a large chunk of the refugees. They currently estimate that over 100,000 Rohingya will be moved to the island known as Thengar Char, supposedly getting them there by 2019.
The alleged repatriation efforts by the Burmese are an effort to appease criticisms across the globe, but aid workers have told SOFREP that it seems to be “entirely for show. If they technically have a program but most don’t qualify then they can say they’re trying.” This back and forth—alleged repatriation contrasted by Bangladesh settling in for the long haul—has not changed the fact that “there are something like a thousand new arrivals every day.”
Another aid worker told me that,
Most people I’ve talked to say they won’t go back unless they’re recognized as Rohingya, or at least guaranteed some semblance of government recognition/protection. Hard to see that happening when the government is still calling them dangerous, lying, illegal immigrant terrorists who burned their own villages to trick the international community. ASSK (Aung San Suu Kyi), China, even the Myanmar church has officially backed that basic narrative.”
Over 600,000 refugees have fled across the border and according to aid workers on the ground, many are still trapped on the other side of the Naf River. There have been multiple drownings as people have desperately tried all sorts of avenues out of Burma and into the relative safety of Bangladesh.
Featured image — Hanida Begum, a Rohingya Muslim woman who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, kisses her infant son, Abdul Masood, who died when the boat they were traveling in capsized just before reaching the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, on Sept. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)