Rohingyas in Bhasan Char: Elated, eager to get to work

Abdul Hamid wants to stay on Bhasan Char until he gets to return to Myanmar.

“I had the best sleep in three years. It’s quiet and peaceful here,” he said yesterday morning with a broad smile.

“We have buildings, we have electricity, and we don’t have to carry water from far. This is a wide open space,” he said.

Hamid is one of the 1,642 Rohingyas who arrived on Bhasan Char Friday afternoon.

This correspondent talked to at least 40 Rohingyas yesterday morning and all of them expressed satisfaction after spending the first night on the island.

But a majority of them said they needed work to be able to live a better life. They said that they were happy to have moved to plain land from the hilly terrain in Cox’s Bazar.

A few said it would have been better if there were bathrooms attached to each room while some others said they would prefer larger rooms.

Forty-year-old Lalu Begum said the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar were hell, compared to Bhasan Char.

“It feels safe and it’s not chaotic like the camps. Water is easily available, it is easier to walk on plain land, and we don’t have to struggle for everything,” she said.

Saiful Islam Chowdhury, coordinator NGO Alliance for Bhasan Char, said, “Cooked food were distributed among the Rohingyas after they arrived. Rice and egg curry were served for breakfast, chicken, lentil and rice for lunch, and vegetables for dinner.”

Six people are cooking for them and they will continue to do so until December 9.

The NGO Alliance will provide food and non food items among Rohingyas for at least a year.

“Besides, we have preparations for providing medical support, sanitation services, and education to one lakh Rohingyas for a year,” he told The Daily Star.

The living quarters are divided in 120 clusters. They are now living in four. Many of them were still unpacking their belongings yesterday. Men brought the belongings from the vessels while women at home sorted those out.

The children were seen playing outside their houses.

Muhammad Anwar was selling bettle leaves on a small table near a building. “There were some rowdy people in Kutupalong [camp] who would always create unrest. There will be no such unrest here. That’s a relief,” he said.

Aktar Hossain chimed in: “The government was saying we would get jobs here. I am a carpenter. The sooner I get work the better. We want work immediately.”

On the island, the choices include cattle rearing, farming and fishing. Around 10,000 buffaloes and 1,000 sheep were grazing on a green field.

Commodore AA Mamun Chowdhury, director of the housing project called Ashrayan-3, said the island was also suitable for farming vegetables, fruits, fish, ducks, swans and chickens.

The Rohingyas were taken there amid concerns from the United Nations and other development partners who demanded an independent assessment of the project before the relocation took place.

There were allegations that the refugees were taken to Bhasan Char by force. But none of the Rohingyas said they went there against their will. The project director said the happy refugees will be able to bring more Rohingyas there.

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sc: The Daily Star