Rohingya Relocation to Bhasan Char: Govt, UN to sign deal in mid-August
The government and the United Nations are close to finalising a protection policy for the Rohingya management in Bhasan Char, with a deal expected by the middle of next month.
The relocation of the 80,000 Rohingyas will start in October, said officials after a meeting on Wednesday between foreign ministry officials, led by Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, and a UN delegation, led by UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo.
Last month a committee was formed, headed by Disaster Management Secretary Md Mohsin, to draft the policy that would address issues such as shelter for the UN and other aid agencies, the voluntariness of the Rohingyas for relocation, transport modalities for aid workers, provision for Rohingyas to travel to Cox's Bazar.
The committee, which has already held two meetings with the UN representative, will hold another meeting next week.
"We hope to finalise the policy in the next meeting and start the relocation after the monsoon," Mohsin told The Daily Star yesterday.
So far, the government and the UN have agreed on education, livelihood, health and other protection issues for the Rohingyas.
However, some small issues need to be settled.
The UN wants to determine the voluntariness of the Rohingya relocation to Bhasan Char, an island in Noakhali, and the livelihood options available there.
"They say Bhasan Char is an isolated place and the Rohingyas need to be engaged in activities. Those activities must be robust. We said we also want the Rohingyas to be involved in some form of income-generating activities."
The government has already begun some projects to ensure livelihood for the Rohingyas.
The UN also has some issues regarding the residential arrangement for its and other aid agencies' staff.
"Whatever differences we have, we will sort it out in the next meeting," Mohsin said.
The government has developed the Bhasan Char project with 120 brick-built cluster villages and 120 cyclone shelters, flood protection embankments, facilities for education, farming and fishing, hospitals and playgrounds. Separate buildings for the aid agencies were also constructed there.
The government also undertook projects to train 100,000 out of the nearly one million Rohingyas, who had fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017 and taken shelter in Cox's Bazar.
However, UN and international aid agencies had been seeking further discussion and technical details of the facility. Between December last year and April this year, more than 18,000 Rohingyas were relocated.
In the absence of the UN in Bhasan Char, Bangladeshi non-governmental organisations began providing humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas in December last year from their own fund.
Since then, the government has repeatedly been urging the UN to begin its operations.
Meanwhile, UN and foreign diplomats visited Bhasan Char. Later in June, the UN proposed a protection policy.
This is a unique case in which refugees are relocated to an island facility, said a UN official then. Therefore, all protection issues of the refugees and the aid workers must be settled, the official added.
"We are in the final step of the policy, but you know the Rohingya crisis is a complex one. It seems this is going to stay here for some time, given the worsening situation in Myanmar. So, we may need to change the policy and adjust to the changed scenario," said another committee member on condition of anonymity.