Bangladesh Resurrects Plan to Move Burma Refugees to Flooded Island

By Reuters 31 January 2017

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladesh has resurrected a plan to relocate thousands of Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Burma’s northwestern Arakan State to a flooded island in the Bay of Bengal to prevent them from “intermingling” with Bangladeshi citizens.

The United Nations says about 65,000 people have fled the Muslim-majority northern part of Arakan to Bangladesh since attacks that killed nine Burmese border police on Oct. 9, sparking a heavy-handed security response in which scores were killed.

Bangladesh first proposed the idea of sending the refugees to Thengar Char, which floods at high tide, in 2015, prompting anger among rights groups.

A notice dated Jan. 26 and posted on the website of the Bangladesh government’s cabinet says several committees had been formed to look at the influx of Rohingya Muslims, which the country fears could lead to law and order issues as they mix with local residents.

Dhaka was preparing a list of the people who would be temporarily moved to Thengar Char before being sent back to Burma, the notice said.

A senior official at Bangladesh’s home ministry said the process to shift the refugees to the island would take time and that “if that place is not livable, the government will make it livable.”