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UN to visit Rohingya relocation island in Bangladesh

Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar, heading to Bangladesh on 10 October, 2017 [Stefanie Glinski/Thomson Reuters Foundation]
Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar, arrive in Bangladesh on 10 October, 2017 [Stefanie Glinski/Thomson Reuters Foundation]

After a year of impasse, the UN and Bangladesh finally reached a consensus on a first-hand visit by the UN delegation to the Rohingya relocation site on a remote Bangladeshi island, officials said today, Anadolu Agency reports.

The UN finally decided to send a team to conduct technical assessment on Bhasan Char, a remote island where the Bangladesh government has developed housing facilities and already relocated more than 13,000 Rohingya refugees from the overcrowded camps in Cox's Bazar amid opposition from UN agencies and rights groups.

The decision came following a recent meeting between high officials of UN missions in Dhaka and the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry.

"Further to discussions with the government of Bangladesh, the UN has agreed to undertake a first mission to Bhasan Char at the earliest possible date and is in ongoing discussions with the government about the details of the visit," Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad, a UN Refugee Agency official in Dhaka told Anadolu Agency.

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Md. Delwar Hossain, a director general at the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, also confirmed it.

"We, the UN and Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a meeting last week, have reached an official decision to facilitate a UN delegation first-hand visit to Bhasan Char. The tour will be held in the middle of next week," he told Anadolu Agency.

The Foreign Ministry will provide necessary technical support for the visit, Hossain said, expressing their belief that the UN team will be satisfied with the infrastructure Bangladesh built in the island to facilitate the gradual relocation of some 100,000 Rohingya from overcrowded Cox's Bazar refugee camps.

Bangladesh is hosting some 1.2 million Rohingya refugees at cramped makeshift camps in Cox's Bazar, which is considered the world's largest refugee settlement. Most have fled violence following a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017.

The island, where 13,000 refugees have already been moved, is said to be flood-prone. Rights groups have been calling for the process to be suspended before a complete feasibility report on the habitability and protection of the island has been carried out.

Meanwhile, the government claims the island is safe and is also planning a visit of foreign diplomats to inspect the arrangements worth $350 million, including 1,400 big cluster houses four feet above the ground with concrete blocks and 120 multi-story cyclone shelters.

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