Bangladesh has relocated more than two-dozen Rohingya refugees who had been stranded at sea for several days to a flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal.
Officials say the refugees, including 15 women and six children, were taken to Bhasan Char island Saturday. The group is believed to have been among 500 Rohingyas who have been stranded on two fishing vessels that were turned away by Malaysia due to strict border controls imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bangladesh has built facilities for 100,000 people on Bhasan Char in an effort to relieve the pressure from the crowded camps on Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh, where about one million Rohingya have been housed in recent years. But officials say none of those refugees have agreed to voluntarily relocate to Bhasan Char.
About 700,000 Rohingyas living in the Cox’s Bazar camps crossed over from neighboring Myanmar to escape a brutal, scorched-earth military campaign against them in 2017 that the United Nations described as ethnic cleansing - involving rapes, killings and torching of homes. Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not consider the Rohingya citizens, despite the fact they have lived in the country for generations.
Thousands of Rohingyas over the years have attempted to escape the Bangladesh camps by boarding crowded boats bound for either Malaysia or Thailand.