Cox’s Bazar, home to nearly a million Rohingya refugees, has been strictly closed since early April – very limited movement is allowed inside the dirty cluster of makeshift camps.
According to Rashid, the group, which includes 1
“They don’t have any corona symptoms, but exams and medical tests are ongoing,” said Rashid.
Refugee aid and repatriation commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder confirmed that 29 people were “sent to Bhashan Char by the Bangladeshi military” where they have access to medical facilities, food and water. It is not clear whether they will be returned to the mainland after a quarantine period or whether they will stay there, Talukder added.
They are the first Rohingya refugees to be sent to the island. The government has been building facilities there for several years with plans to relocate thousands of people from Cox’s Bazar, although no schedule has been set.
CNN was unable to contact the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.
Uninhabited low-lying island
Moving Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char is also problematic. The UN says more time is needed to assess the safety of the uninhabited low-lying island, as it is often partially submerged during the monsoon season, which is rapidly approaching.
“The United Nations’ longstanding position is that comprehensive technical and protection assessments are essential to assess the safety and sustainability of life in Bhasan Char before moving to the island,” said Louise Donovan of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at Cox’s Bazar . “The United Nations has long been ready to continue with the on-site assessment work.”
Amnesty International reports that 800 Rohingya refugees are stranded on boats in the Bay of Bengal by Friday.
“The COVID-19 pandemic cannot justify states’ refusal to allow Rohingya to exit,” the letter said. “Forcing refugees to stay on boats also jeopardizes their right to health and possibly their right to life.”
Louise Donovan of the UNHCR said that all refugees arriving at Cox ‘Bazar would receive a “full medical examination” before being quarantined for 14 days.
“The public health needs associated with the Covid 19 pandemic and the need to protect people seeking refuge are not mutually exclusive and can be met together,” added Donovan.
“It’s like Deja Vu until 2015”
“It’s like deja vu until 2015,” Yanghee Lee, the former UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said in an interview with CNN on April 28 before her term ended.
According to the UNHCR, 30 Rohingya refugees died at sea last month after a boat “ran out of food, water and fuel” during an almost two-month voyage. Almost 400 other people were rescued by Bangladeshi authorities and medically examined and quarantined upon arrival, the UNHCR added.
“The survivors include a large number of women and children. They are all in poor physical condition, many are dehydrated and malnourished and need immediate medical attention,” the UNHCR statement said. There was no evidence that anyone on board had signed Covid-19.
“I understand that there are some boats full of Rohingyas that are not allowed to enter or moor in the neighboring ASEAN countries,” said Yanghee Lee. “I really want to appeal to government leaders that there are ways to get them in and quarantine them.”
However, the ASEAN countries do not appear to be ready to accept the refugees as border restrictions are tightened to control the spread of the coronavirus.
“The Home Office would like to emphasize that the authorities will always be ready to prevent interference with their borders and territorial waters,” said Hamzah, adding that Malaysia had distributed food supplies for humanitarian reasons before escorting the boat out of the country’s waters.