‘Bhashan Char Island to house 100,000 Rohingya refugees’
28th Jan, 2020
Bhashan Char, a Bangladeshi island regularly submerged by monsoon rains is ready to house 100,000 Rohingya refugees.
About Bhashan Char Island:
- The Bhashan Char, also known as Thengar Char, is an uninhabited island around 30 kilometres east of Hatiya island in South-East Bangladesh.
- Hatiya has a population of 600,000. Bhashan Char island was formed about two decades ago on the mouth of river Meghna.
- In the Bengali language “Bhashan Char” means “floating island”.
- It’s also not ancient as Hatiya, which was formed over 500 years ago. Bhashan Char emerged around 20 years ago.
During the full moon or new moon half of the Island goes under the water, and during monsoon, 60% of the Island submerged under the water.
Who are Rohingyas?
- Rohingya are an ethnic group (largely comprising Muslims), who predominantly live in the Western Myanmar province of Rakhine. They speak a dialect of Bengali, as opposed to the commonly spoken Burmese language.
- Though the group have been living in the South East Asian country for generations, Myanmar considers them as persons who migrated to their land during the Colonial rule.
- So, the country has not granted Rohingyas full citizenship.
- According to the 1982 Burmese citizenship law, a Rohingya (or any ethnic minority) is eligible for citizenship only if he/she provides proof that his/her ancestors have lived in the country prior to 1823. Else, they are classified as “resident foreigners” or as “associate citizens” (even if one of the parents is a Myanmar citizen).
- Since they are not citizens, they are not entitled to be part of civil service. Their movements are also restricted within the Rakhine state.
- In August 2017, the Myanmar army launched a crackdown on the Rohingya minority, forcing over 700,000 of the ethnic community to cross the border and take shelter in overcrowded refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.
Challenges & Issues:
- The Bhashan Char which has emerged less than two decades back from the sea falls in an ecologically fragile area prone to floods, erosion and cyclone.
- Too many serious questions remain unanswered regarding protection, freedom of movement, access to livelihoods, logistics, and the availability of services.
- There is also a slim chance of humanitarian services of non-government organizations (NGOs) on that remote island.
- At present, many international and local NGOs are working at the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, providing much-needed food, shelter, healthcare, and other aid to the refugees.
However, the Bangladeshi government has claimed that they have built quality infrastructure, even villages in Bangladesh have never seen such good work. The Government have built multi-family concrete homes, hospitals, mosques, schools, playgrounds and roads. There are solar-power facilities, a water supply system. They have constructed raised concrete buildings that could be used as cyclone shelters.