Relocation of Rohingya Muslim Refugees

Bhasan Char. This is an island of Bangladesh where 100,000 Rohingya refugees are planned to be transported. A much controversial plan because it threatens human rights.

To explain how this situation could have arisen, it is important to first highlight the background and history of this group of people.

The Rohingya are a stateless ethnic and Muslim minority group, originally from Myanmar. Within this country, we will also find the basis of the current situation. For that, we have to go back a few decades, when the country was still called Burma.

In 1962, a coup was committed in Burma and a military junta (dictatorship) was established. After this seizure of power, the country was in ruins. In order to unite the population, a common enemy was created, as often happens in dictatorships. The Rohingya were an obvious choice for this; during World War II, the Rohingya and the rest of the population had already been on opposite sides.

From the 1970s onwards, the military began to increasingly use violence and rape against the Rohingya. And in the ’80s, they were made stateless. When a new citizen act was signed, more than 100 ethnic groups were recognized, but the Rohingya, who were one of the largest minorities, were not included. Making them one of the largest stateless populations, according to Human Rights Watch.

This new act marks the beginning of the Rohingya displacement. Not only were they now driven away by the army, but civilians also started attacking, raping and eventually burning at least 50% of the Rohingya villages.

Almost half of the 1.5 million Rohingya people fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. To prevent their return, the army – that had now become Myanmar’s army – laid landmines along the border with Bangladesh.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been Myanmar’s state adviser since 2016, making her the head of state. However, she has been much discredited for failing to recognize the seriousness of the situation regarding the Rohingya and for defending the actions of the military before the International Court of Justice.

Almost all of the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh are currently living in overcrowded refugee camps.

The Bangladesh government has previously made attempts to return the refugees to Myanmar. However, due to the enormous fear among the Rohingya, the resistance was so great that this plan has failed.

Now an island has been chosen to move 100,000 people: Bhasan Char.

However, due to the irregular tide, the island was completely submerged only 20 years ago. Today, this tide, in combination with regular storms, often causes flooding on the island. The United Nations and various aid organizations, therefore, find it irresponsible to have people housed here. According to the Bangladesh Minister of Foreign Affairs, it is completely safe. But still, inspectors are not allowed access to the island.

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