Cox's Bazar (Bangladesh) (AFP)
Bangladesh began on Monday to transfer a second group of Rohingya refugees to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, despite opposition from human rights organizations.
More than 1,600 members of this Muslim minority who had fled neighboring Burma where they were persecuted have already been taken to the island of Bhashan Char in early December.
And Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said on Monday that just under a thousand others were in the second group.
Buses collected them from the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar, where nearly a million people live, to take them to Chittagong port, from where they will leave for this island cut off from the world and vulnerable to cyclones and floods.
"They are going there on a voluntary basis. They are very anxious to go because their relatives who are already in Bhashan Char told them that it is an excellent place," Momen told AFP.
He added that the island was "100 times better" than the camps and that the refugees were asking to go.
"Bhashan Char is a very beautiful site. It is a beautiful complex. Those who go there love it," the minister said.
Two Rohingya refugees in this group told AFP that they were going there voluntarily.
Serajul Islam, who is going there with five members of his family, also said that no one is forcing him to do so.
"Given the way the international community is handling our file, there is no future in the camps," he told AFP.
"Better to go there and spend the rest of my life, to live in better housing. At least I won't have to worry about flooding in the rainy season or the unbearable heat in the summer."
About 750,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees, a persecuted minority in a predominantly Buddhist Burma, fled in 2017 an ethnic cleansing carried out in the west of this country by the army and Buddhist militias, described as genocide by the UN.
After the first transfer on December 4, some Rohingya told AFP that they had been forced to agree to go to the island.
Dhaka has long wanted to displace 100,000 Rohingya refugees.
This controversial project, denounced by many NGOs and international organizations, is the subject of strong opposition from the Rohingya community.
The UN says it was not involved in this process.
"Statements from refugees that money was offered to Rohingya families to agree to go to Bhashan Char, or acts of intimidation raise questions about the displacement process," Saad Hammadi said , from the organization Amnesty International.
Mr. Momen, for his part, denounced the fabrications of the detractors of this project.
© 2020 AFP