Bhasan Char Is No Home
When the idea was in it's initial stages, the world saw news headlines of a new "home" for the Rohingya. Bhasan Char Island, according to the Bangladeshi government, was and is the answer to the severely overcrowded camp conditions in Cox's Bazaar. However, the same island that's being painted as this sanctuary by Bangladesh, is being described as an infrastructure disaster by experts, and a jail on a floating island by human rights activists and the Rohingya themselves.
Bhasan Char has only really formed in the last two decades, it's foundation is made up of deposits of slit in the delta with the shorelines and shape of the island changing constantly. This island is situated in an area prone to extreme weather conditions, with practically no capacity for proper evacuation meaning no real safety for its inhabitants and making the island volatile and largely inhabitable. Poor attempts to build an infrastructure on the island to address these issues have been made with many being unsuccessful based on the testaments of the Rohingya.
August 14, 2021 saw more than 12 Rohingya go missing with fears that they may have drowned after their boat sank, attempting to flee the island.
More recently, a fishing boat carrying more than 40 Rohingya refugees (including children) capsized on August 14, 2021, in the Bay of Bengal. At least 200 refugees attempting to escape Bhasan Char have been arrested since May, further emphasising the prison like conditions of the island. If this island is not a prison, like Bangladesh persists, if it is as liveable as anywhere else in the world, with the safe-guarding of Rohingya people in mind, then why are so many trying to flee? Why are people being kept on the island, prohibited from visiting their families in the Cox's Bazar camps and entering mainland?
Protests and Hunger Strikes
Since being moved to Bhasan Char, protests and hunger strikes have also been a frequent occurrence.
Naval officers allegedly beat the refugees, including children, in response for their hunger strike beginning on September 21, 2020, to demand reunification with their families in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps.
In June, during a U.N visit to the island, several thousand Rohingya refugees staged protests against the dire and "jail-like" living conditions. It's been alleged that Bangladesh put in place provisions to ensure that only specific refugees they had vetted were able to speak to the UN visiting team, which catalysed the protests, becoming cries of desperation to be heard, only to be met with violence by police officers.
Not a Home
The notion that this island is the "new home" for thousands of Rohingya must be rejected, on every level. The home of the Rohingya, the Chin, Kachin, Karen and the other ethnic minorities victimised by the Burmese military, is Myanmar. Shifting the Rohingya on an uninhabited island with poor infrastructure, where the international community still refuses to apply any pressure on Myanmar, where repatriation is still out of the question, is just as well as sealing their fate. It is to give them permanent residence on a death trap. To maintain that this is a "temporary solution" until repatriation is inconsistent and insincere.
Bangladesh have confirmed that they plan to move another 80, 000 Rohingya refugees to the island. But, with the current estimated 20, 000 living on the island having little to no access to health care, food, education, as well as being victim to abuse by security officials, it is unclear how Bhasan Char will sustain a population of over 100,000. The tens of thousands of Rohingya currently inhabiting the already tumultuous delta will feel the consequences of global warming before their rights make the agenda of the international community.