At least 27 Rohingya are missing after their boat sank on Saturday (August 14th) as they tried to flee a refugee camp criticized by human rights NGOs on a Bangladeshi island, authorities said.
Nearly 20,000 Rohingya have been displaced to Bhashan Char Island, which is hit hard by cyclones roaring in the Bay of Bengal each year. Ultimately, Bangladesh wants to settle 100,000 of the million Rohingya refugees on its soil, most of them in crowded camps on the continent. Some Rohingya complain that they have been forcibly displaced on the island. Thousands of them demonstrated in June against the living conditions.
After the sinking on Saturday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it was “Worried about reports that refugees have been arrested and imprisoned for trying to leave Bhashan Char”.
Police said the small fishing boat sank with 41 Rohingyas on board after encountering rough seas in the Bay of Bengal near the island. Fourteen people were rescued. Research continues to try to find the missing. “Navy boats and a helicopter also joined in the search”Bhashan Char official administrator Sujit Kumar Chanda told Agence France-Presse (AFP). Women and children are among the missing, he said.
“Life there is horrible”
Bangladesh started moving refugees to the controversial camp on the island in November, explaining that camps in the south-east of the country were overcrowded.
Hundreds of Rohingya have fled the island in recent months and have been arrested in coastal villages in the Chittagong region, police said.
For Abdur Rahim, 27, who fled Bhashan Char several months ago, it is the lack of work on the island that drives the Rohingya to escape. “Life there is horrible. It is impossible to see relatives. It’s as if they put us in prison without giving us any opportunity ”, denounced the young man.
Amnesty International has called for Bangladesh “Ensure that all travel on the island is voluntary” and that the refugees have “The right to freedom of movement between the island and the mainland, where many of them have their families and relatives”.