The UN has expressed its positive attitude on the Bhasan Char project, which is meant to relocate 100,000 Rohingya from the camps in Cox’s Bazar.
The UN delegation, which visited Bhasan Char on March 17-20, has already submitted a report to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently.
“Overall, UN is positive about Bhasan Char,” a diplomatic source told The Daily Star today.
“The facilities in Bhasan Char are good overall. However, the UN also has some recommendations,” the source said without specifying.
The 18-member UN delegation led by Fumiko Kashiwa, assistant representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, made the visit following an impasse of more than a year between the government and the UN regarding the global body’s technical assessment of the facility.
The government has already relocated some 13,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, an island under Noakhali district, from Cox’s Bazar in phases since December last year.
Bangladesh Navy implemented the Tk 3,100 crore housing project after some 750,000 Rohingyas had fled a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017 and took shelter in the camps in Teknaf and Ukhia.
Apart from the risk of landslides in the hilly terrain, the government cited issues such as drug peddling, human trafficking, gender-based violence, conflicts between factions of the refugee communities in Cox’s Bazar, and environmental degradation as major reasons for the relocation.
The international community had raised concerns over risks of tidal surge and cyclone at the remote island, but the government said with 120 brick-built cluster villages and 120 cyclone shelters, flood protection embankments, facilities for education, farming and fishing, hospitals and playgrounds, the Char is a much better living place than the Cox’s Bazar camps.
The UN said it wanted to send one of its technical teams to the island to assess the housing facilities. Asked by the government, UN also submitted the terms of reference for the visit in December 2019. The move got stalled after that.
Separate buildings for the UN and other international aid agencies have also been constructed in Bhasan Char.
After relocation of the first batch of Rohingyas in December last year, some 44 NGOs volunteered to go there and started providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees. There were concerns over how funds needed for 100,000 Rohingyas would be managed after their relocation.
The government has been urging the UN to begin its operations in Bhasan Char, but the UN as well as donor countries had been seeking an independent technical assessment of the facility.
The government, however, maintained no such technical assessment was necessary as Bhasan Char has been equipped with a well-built facility developed by maintaining international standards and addressing all risks involved.
Against such a backdrop, nine envoys each from the missions of Australia, Canada, Turkey, the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, also visited Bhashan Char on April 3, two weeks after the UN visit.
“The UN being positive about Bhasan Char means it will come forward with funding for the Rohingyas in Bhasan Char,” the diplomatic source said.