Forced resettlement to Bhasan Char

Rohingya should be allowed to return home (Press Release)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) and the European Rohingya Council (ERC) are demanding an immediate end to the resettlement of hundreds of Rohingya from the refugee camps in Cox's Bazaar district to the island of Bhasan Char. According to the human rights organizations, the government of Bangladesh should immediately stop the resettlement of people to the isolated and flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal – and the international community should help Bangladesh to take care of the refugees. Further, it would be necessary to put pressure on the government of Myanmar to implement the promised democratic reforms and to allow the refugees to return.

"Human rights observers have reported that the authorities in Cox's Bazaar have used coercion and false promises to convince the people to move to the island," stated Jasna Causevic, STP expert on genocide prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. The transfer to transit centers had already started on December 1. The original plan was to resettle 2,500 Rohingya to the island in the next few days – and the resettlement has already begun, despite concerns about ongoing human rights violations against the 300 Rohingya who are currently kept detained on Bhasan Char. The Bangladeshi authorities had rescued them from a ship in May 2020 and had taken them to Bhasan Char, under the pretext of quarantine. However, they have not been allowed to leave the island for half a year.

According to information from the STP and the ERC, refugees in Cox's bazaar are forced to agree to the resettlement by means of propaganda or intimidation. For example, the "volunteers" are promised that they will be able to return to Myanmar or to emigrate to third countries more quickly.

"The forced resettlement to Bhasan Char supports the anti-minority policy of the Myanmar government. Due to the fact that the National League for Democracy of de-facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi recently won a clear parliamentary majority – under controversial circumstances –the Rohingya refugees will most probably not be able to return in the near future," Causevic fears. "There is no functioning opposition in the country. The most important opposition party is close to the military, which gets 25 percent of the seats in parliament and can thus block constitutional amendments. However, a change in the constitution would be necessary to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya will regain their civil rights. "They were robbed of these rights in 1982, with a collective withdrawal of their citizenship. The rulers of the country obviously do not want the refugees and displaced persons to return," Causevic criticized. 

The efforts to resettle and detain the Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char are a clear violation of Articles 9 and 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bangladesh has ratified. The EU and Germany should do everything in their power to enforce the return of the refugees to their homes in Myanmar.