Amnesty International issued a statement yesterday saying that they received allegations from Rohingya refugees about government officials in charge of camps coercing them into registering for relocation.
"According to local media reports, the Bangladeshi government has completed preparations to relocate 300 to 400 Rohingya refugees to the silt island of Bhashan Char this month on a 'voluntary basis'," said the statement.
But the organisation stated that they interviewed refugees whose names were included in the list of the Rohingya families identified for relocation to Bhashan Char, who alleged that they were being coerced. Amnesty International interviewed five family members who represent 23 refugees on the list for relocation, said the statement.
"Two Rohingya families were put on the list for relocation after they reported partial damage of their shelters to the 'majhi' -- a Rohingya community leader, selected by the Bangladeshi authorities in most of the camps -- to and government officials in charge of the refugee camps. Instead of having their shelters repaired, they were told that they must relocate to Bhashan Char," said the statement.
The statement quoted the head of one of the families as saying, "I requested many times to the NGOs and CIC (camp authority) for support to fix my shelter. We are still having difficulty staying in it. They are not helping me relocate within the camp or to other camps."
Instead the head majhi in his camp told him that debts he had incurred to feed his family and pay for his wife's medical treatment would be cleared if he relocated, adds the statement. He reportedly told Amnesty, "I decided to register for the relocation as I have no other option."
One 33-year-old head of a five-member family told Amnesty that he registered to relocate to the island in 2019, after being deprived of relief support by the majhi in his camp but has changed his mind since then because the issue has been resolved. His name, however, is on the list prepared this month by the government official in charge of the refugee camp.
A head majhi allegedly told Amnesty International that government officials in charge of camps put pressure on them to provide lists of refugees to be relocated.
"Based on the experiences of those that Amnesty International has spoken to, many of the Rohingyas who have signed up to relocate to Bhashan Char are doing so out of compulsion rather than choice," said Omar Waraich, deputy South Asia director of Amnesty.