‘Bhasan Char was the only option’

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By Anwesha Bhaumik
Kolkata, June 5 (IANS)
Bangladesh was compelled to spend considerable funds to create the state-of-the-art facilities at Bhasan Char island for shifting some Rohingya refugees to decongest the Teknaf upazila in Cox’s Bazar for environmental considerations and to avoid conflicts, a top official said on Saturday.
The senior Bangladeshi official said his poor, overpopulated country was doing its best to look after the nearly one million Rohingya who had been given refuge after brutal pogroms forced them out of Myanmar.
“We are therefore understandably upset when the global community lectures us on our duties and tells us what more we should do for the Rohingya. It is their duty to force Myanmar to take the Rohingya back,” the official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.
“I cannot understand this hypocrisy. We shelter the Rohingya and you tell us I should give them my bedroom to sleep? How can outsiders, the so-called global community, dictate to us where we should keep the Rohingya? Do they forget we are a sovereign nation? Can they tell the US where to keep the Cuban exiles?” he queried .
The official said that Bangladesh decided to shift a few thousand Rohingya to Bhasan Char after the Navy had completed the construction.
“During cyclone Yaas, many areas on the Bangladesh coast were badly impacted but nothing happened to Bhasan Char. But some global NGO , who love Bangladesh-bashing, are going to town now saying that the Rohingya there are unhappy,” the official said, when his attention was drawn to a Human Rights Watch report due for release on Sunday.
“If they are so upset with what we have done for the Rohingya, let them take these refugees to the US and other Western countries in the way nearly 100,000 Lhotsampas evicted from Bhutan were taken.
“And if you don’t want to take them because they are Muslims and you fear they could be terrorists, how do you then insist on Bangladesh to shoulder this burden for years when you can’t push Myanmar’s brutal military regime to take them back,” he told IANS.
The top official said that when UNHCR representatives including, Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, and Raouf Mazou, Assistant High Commissioner for Operation, visited Bhasan Char on May 31, some 600 to 700 Rohingya had demonstrated for more relief.
“But a vested quarter tried to create confusion amongst the Rohingyas and snatch media attention so that the ongoing process of involving the INGOs and the UN is jeopardised. Only a small section of the 18,000 plus Rohingya demonstrated but now some global rights bodies are sitting on judgement saying most were unhappy with Bhasan Char,” he said.
The official said tens of thousands of Bangladesh’s own citizens live in places like Bhasan Char and suffer similar risks.
“Should we make a New York for them in Bangladesh?” he asked.
He said if Bangladesh cannot shift the Rohingya refugees to places like Bhasan Char, then many of them will keep risking hazardous sea voyages to Southeast Asia and die when their boats sink.
The official said for Bangladesh, repatriation and not permanent rehabilitation was the priority.
“The world cannot sleep as we shoulder this huge burden. And then complain about where and how we keep them.
“Our people in thousands went to India during the 1971 Liberation War, but we did not agitate over where and how India kept us because they could only do what they could afford,” he added.

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