Bangladesh will start relocating Rohingya Muslims to a flood-prone island off its coast next month as several thousand refugees have agreed to move, a government official said on Sunday.
Dhaka wants to move 100,000 refugees to Bhasan Char – a Bay of Bengal island hours by boat from the mainland – to ease overcrowding in its camps at Cox’s Bazar, home to more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims who have fled neighbouring Myanmar.
"We want to start relocation by early next month," Mahbub Alam Talukder, the Relief and Repatriation Commission chief based in Cox’s Bazar, told Reuters, adding that "the refugees will be shifted in phases".
Some human rights groups have expressed concern over that plan because the island is remote and prone to devastation from cyclones. Many refugees oppose the move, which some human rights experts fear could spark a new crisis.
Densely populated Bangladesh has been grappling with large refugee numbers, with local communities turning hostile towards Rohingya after a second failed bid to send thousands back to Myanmar in August.