Authorities in Bangladesh have reportedly prepared a list of 4,000 Rohingya refugees to be relocated to the island, beginning with transfers to the port city of Chattogram today (December 3).
“The Bangladesh government should commit to a transparent relocation process, fully informed consent of transferred refugees and freedom of movement on and off the island, and heed the United Nations’ call for a prior independent technical and protection assessment,” the HRW said in a statement.
The international rights body also accused the Bangladesh government of actively reneging on its promise to the UN not to relocate any refugees to Bhasan Char island until humanitarian experts give a green light.
“If the government were genuinely confident in the habitability of the island, they would be transparent and not hastily circumvent UN technical assessments,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Earlier, the United Nations said that it had not been involved in preparation for this transfer to Bhasan Char and that “any relocations to Bhasan Char should be preceded by comprehensive technical protection assessments,” reiterating that the UN stood ready to proceed with such assessments “if permitted by the Government.”
European Union Ambassador Rensje Teerink said that the EU would not comment on relocation to Bhasan Char until the UN had been allowed to complete technical and humanitarian missions to the island.
The UN also said that the government should respect commitments to ensure any relocation is voluntary.
Though the government claims that any relocation will be voluntary, the prominent rights organisation said it recently spoke with 12 families from the list who had not willingly volunteered for the relocation.
“Some refugees on the list have fled out of fear of forced relocation,” the rights body alleged.
Adams also urged the donor governments, engaged in the Rohingya crisis response, to take a clear stand against this rash move to relocate Rohingya to Bhasan Char.
“Decisions to move after the completion of technical assessments need to be voluntary and fully informed,” he said.