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'Rohingya shifting to ease BD’s burden'

Relocation to Bhasanchar likely to start Dec 5

MIR MOSTAFIZUR RAHAMAN back from Bhsanchar | November 23, 2020 00:00:00

An aerial view of the Bhashanchar dwellings for Rohingya — FE Photo

As the government is preparing to relocate Rohingya refugees from Cox's Bazar to Bhasanchar Island on December 5, experts said their quick relocation is crucial to alleviate socio-economic burden on the country.

Over the months, crimes like human and drug trafficking, killing and arson etc have become common phenomenon in the Cox's Bazar camps that house over one million refugees.

"These camps in Cox's Bazar have turned into a permanent source of instability for the region. So, parts of these people need to be relocated immediately," Professor Delwar Hossain of International Relations Department, University of Dhaka, told the FE during his visit to the 13,000-acre island last week.

"Since Bhasanchar has been prepared for this task, the government should start the relocation process without any delay."

He opined that this relocation is a priority, as repatriation of these Rohingyas to their homeland in Myanmar is not in sight.

Commenting on the concerns, expressed by some humanitarian agencies, Professor Delwar said they have raised the issue of safety and communication in Bhasanchar.

"But after visiting the island, I found that the place is much better than I imagined or heard of."

"It takes two and a half hour to reach the island from Chittagong. So, volunteers of the humanitarian agencies can come to this place easily."

"There are large warehouses inside the project area, where they can store logistics and food for several months," he noted.

Asked about vulnerability of the island to natural calamities like cyclone or tidal wave, Bhasanchar Project Director Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury said a three-tier shore protection system is there to keep the island safe from these calamities.

There is a boom wave screen breaker in the offshore area adjacent to the island. Besides, there are stones and there is geo bag dam on the shore to keep it protected.

The entire project is surrounded by a 12.1-kilometre embankment, which is 9.0 feet high now. The height will be enhanced further to 19 feet, Commodore Mamun added.

The afforestation along the shore will also work as a protection. There are 18 sluice gates along the embankment to ensure water drainage.

The project also has 120 four-storey cyclone shelters, each of which can house 1,000 people during cyclone emergency.

Professor Delwar further said, "The pressure of a huge number of refugees on Cox's Bazar is heavy, whereas Bhasanchar is a far better place for them."

"Initially the government should take preparation to provide support to the relocated Rohingyas without depending on the development partners."

"It can be done through engaging them in economic activities," he suggested.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen also echoed the same opinion.

"Primarily we may need to provide everything to the refugees on our own. And it is possible, as they will be relocated phase by phase," he told the FE in his office when asked about the shifting plan.

However, Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen was sarcastic while commenting on the opposition of some donors to the relocation plan.

A section of donors are reluctant to the plan, as they find that the project site is far away from Cox's Bazar, where they can have relaxed moments in five-star hotels after their work, he quipped.

"But Bhasanchar is almost a paradise, if you compare it to the cramped congested camps in Cox's Bazar."

He also alleged that the refugees are misguided by a section of people.

But when they will arrive in Bhasanchar, they will feel very much comfortable, and can engage themselves in various income-generating activities.

Professor Sadeka Halim of Sociology Department, University of Dhaka, who also visited the island last week, expressed the same opinions.

"No doubt Bhasanchar is a more suitable place for the refugees. We have no choice but to relocate the refugees to the island, if we want to save Cox's Bazar from the huge socio-economic erosion due to the presence of over one million refugees there."

But she suggested that there should be activities related to the Rohingya culture in the project.

"The authorities concerned should devise a plan to introduce these activities by involving anthropologists or sociologists. The activities related to the ethnic culture of Rohingyas will encourage them to stay here," she observed.

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