US and Canada agree to help Bangladesh manage Rohingya in Bhasan Char

The UN has already included Bhasan Char in the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya refugees

Published : 4 August 2022, 03:34 PM
Updated : 4 August 2022, 05:27 PM

After the United Nations, the United States and Canada have agreed to provide Bangladesh with assistance in the Bhasan Char island project for the Rohingya refugees.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said on Thursday the US and Canada had written to the government pledging the assistance.

Thanking the US and Canada for changing their stance, Shahriar said, “Bangladesh solely bore the burden of Bhasan Char. It will ease greatly now with this new pledge of help.”

The UN had objected to the relocation of some of the Myanmar refugees from Cox’s Bazar to the remote island, but recently it agreed to work for the relocated refugees and its agency for refugees, UNHCR, signed a deal with the government in October last year.

Bhasan Char was later included in the Joint Response Plan to manage the Rohingya refugees, for which the UN has raised $3.22 billion since the mass exodus of more than 700,000 refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine in 2017. The US contributed the highest $1.7 billion to the plan.

Many countries, including the US and Canada, and international agencies had expressed concerns about the safety of the Rohingya in case a cyclone and tidal surge bears down on the isolated island in the middle of the sea. They had also been concerned whether the relocation would be voluntary.

Reports and visits by officials of international agencies suggested the relocated refugees were leading a better life than their relatives in the squalid camps in Cox’s Bazar although some tried to flee to the mainland.

Shahriar said “misleading” information about the island’s infrastructure were sent after a visit by Yanghee Lee, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, in 2019.

“But we were patient and never ceased engagement,” he said, adding the shelters built for the refugees are of high quality and no one was relocated against their will.

The 2017 exodus took place after the Myanmar military launched a crackdown described by the uN as a”textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Myanmar authorities now face genocide charges in the World Court.

A cache of documents, collected by war crimes investigators and reported by Reuters on Thursday, reveals discussions and planning around the purges of the Rohingya population and efforts to hide military operations from the international community.

The documents show how the military systematically demonised the Muslim minority, created militias that would ultimately take part in operations against the Rohingya, and coordinated their actions with ultranationalist Buddhist monks.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher