October 19, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Rohingya: Refugees who were stranded at sea were moved to a controversial island after landing in Bangladesh

Rohingya refugees arrive in Bangladesh, after being stranded at sea for weeks.
The 29 refugees, mostly women and children, were taken to hurricane-prone island Bhashan Char – also known as Thengar Char – to protect the extensive Cox’s Bazar refugee camps from the spread of Covid-19, Bangladesh Navy Lieutenant. Abdur Rashid told CNN.

Cox’s Bazar, home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees, has been tightly locked up since the beginning of April – only very limited movements are permitted in slum camp groups.

The refugees currently in Bhashan Char are among hundreds of Rohingya Muslim refugees trapped at sea for weeks in “dire conditions” after trying to flee to Malaysia, according to a statement from the European Union. Ethnic minorities without citizenship are not recognized as citizens by their home countries in Myanmar, although they have been rooted there for centuries. Bangladesh has taken hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing for humanitarian reasons, but they were not given rights there and locked up in refugee camps. Authorities are still investigating where the group sailed from.

Rashid said the group – which included 19 women, five men and five children – was not believed to be sick with a virus that had killed nearly 250,000 people worldwide.

“They have no symptoms of corona, but investigations and medical tests are ongoing,” Rashid said.

Bangladesh Relief and Refugee Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder confirmed that 29 people were “sent to Bhashan Char by the Bangladesh military” where they have access to medical facilities, food and water. It is unclear whether they will be returned to the mainland after quarantine, or if they will remain there, Talukder added.

They were the first Rohingya refugees sent to the island. The government has been building facilities there for several years, with plans to move thousands of people from Cox’s Bazar, even though no schedule has been set.

Many of them fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to avoid a military crackdown in 2017, which led to the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordering Myanmar to protect the Rohingya population from acts of genocide.
The Myanmar government has denied committing genocide, but has admitted that some soldiers did war crime. Efforts to repatriate refugees to Myanmar have failed, in part because of concerns among Rohingya residents that they will be targeted again. The United Nations is also worried about lack of access to it return field.

CNN could not contact the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry to comment.

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Lowland uninhabited island

Moving Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char is also problematic. The UN says more time is needed to assess the security of this uninhabited lowland island, because it is often submerged partly during the rainy season, which is getting closer.

On Monday, Myanmar’s state-owned newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar warned that areas of low pressure in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea were expected to increase to depression over the next few days, bring heavy rain.

“The UN’s long standing position is that a comprehensive technical assessment and protection to evaluate the safety and sustainability of life on Bhasan Char is very important before relocation to the island takes place,” said Louise Donovan, from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at Cox’s Bazar. “The United Nations has long been ready to continue with the assessment work in place.”

As of Friday, some 800 Rohingya refugees are believed to be stranded on ships in the Bay of Bengal, according to Amnesty International.

The group issued an open letter urging governments in the region to allow them to dock humanitarian reasons.

“The COVID-19 pandemic cannot justify the state’s refusal to allow the Rohingya to step down,” the letter said. “Forcing refugees to stay aboard also risks their right to health and potentially their right to live.”

The European Union also urged governments in the region to “carry out search and rescue operations and to find solutions for them safe landing. ”

Louise Donovan from UNHCR said that every refugee who arrived at Cox’s Bazar would be given a “complete medical examination” before being quarantined for 14 days.

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“The importance of public health is related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to protect people who seek protection are not mutually exclusive and can be met together,” Donovan added.

Hundreds of Rohingya migrants have been trapped at sea on ships in 2015.

“It’s like deja vu until 2015 ‘

The crisis risks a repeat of the same situation in 2015, when thousands of Rohingya refugees were stranded at sea for weeks. Finally, countries include Indonesia and Malaysia allowed them to land.

“It’s like deja vu until 2015,” Yanghee Lee, a former UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said in an interview with CNN on April 28, before his term was added.

Last month, UNHCR said 30 Rohingya refugees died at sea after a ship “ran out of food, water and fuel during a nearly two-month trip at sea.” Nearly 400 others were rescued by Bangladeshi authorities and medically examined and quarantined upon their arrival, added UNHCR.

“The survivors include a large number of women and children. They are all in weak physical condition, many are dehydrated and malnourished and need immediate medical attention,” a UNHCR statement said. He added that there was no evidence that anyone on board had contracted Covid-19.

“I understand that there are some ships full of Rohingya that are not allowed to enter or dock in neighboring ASEAN countries,” Yanghee Lee said. “I really want to appeal to the leadership of each government, that there is a way to let them enter and quarantine.”

But ASEAN countries seem reluctant to accept refugees, because border restrictions are tightened to control the spread of the corona virus.

Malaysia, which is often the target of Rohingya’s target ships, blocked an incoming ship on April 17 after the government closed the border with foreigners because of Covid-19, according to comments from Malaysian Interior Minister Hamzah Zainudin, published by Malaysia. Named state news agency on Thursday.

“The Interior Ministry wants to emphasize that the authorities will always be ready to prevent disruption in the border and territorial waters,” Hamzah said, adding that Malaysia was distributing food supplies on humanitarian grounds, before escorting ships out of the country’s waters.

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