Bangladesh sends 3rd group of Rohingya refugees to island

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Rohingya refugees walk with their belongings to be relocated to to the island of Bhasan Char, in Chattogram, Bangladesh, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Authorities in Bangladesh sent a third group of Rohingya refugees to a newly developed island in the Bay of Bengal on Friday despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process. The government insists the relocation plan is meant to offer better living conditions while attempts to repatriate more than 1 million refugees to Myanmar would continue. (AP Photo/Azim Aunon)

DHAKA – Authorities in Bangladesh sent a third group of Rohingya refugees to a newly developed island in the Bay of Bengal on Friday despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process.

The government insists the relocation plan is meant to offer better living conditions while attempts to repatriate more than 1 million refugees to Myanmar would continue.

On Friday morning, 1,778 refugees started their journey to the island of Bhasan Char in four navy vessels from the southeastern port city of Chattogram, after they were brought from crammed camps in Cox’s Bazar district, said M. Mozammel Haque, a commander of the Bangladesh navy.

He said a fourth batch would be sent to the island Saturday.

“Around 4,000 refugees have already been sent to the island since December, but we have the capacity of accommodating 100,000. The process will continue until we fulfill it,” he told reporters.

Haque said the refugees were being treated well on the island and they would have the option of generating income by rearing cattle or poultry and could also engage in making handicrafts.

He said they wanted them to contribute to the economy, but their repatriation to Myanmar is the ultimate goal.

“They will be checked by our doctors when they arrive today. They will be given food and accommodation properly,” he said.