Dhaka: Several thousand Rohingya staged “unruly” protests Monday against living conditions on a cyclone-prone island off Bangladesh where they were moved from vast camps on the mainland, police said.
Since December, Bangladesh has shifted 18,000 out of a planned 100,000 refugees to the low-lying silt island of Bhashan Char from the Cox’s Bazar region, where some 850,000 people live in squalid and cramped conditions.
Most of them had fled a brutal military offensive in neighbouring Myanmar in 2017 that UN investigators concluded was executed with “genocidal intent”.
Monday’s protest involved up to 4,000 people, police said, and coincided with an inspection visit by officials from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
“The Rohingya who are there became unruly the moment the UNHCR representatives landed (on the island) by helicopter today,” local police chief Alamgir Hossain told AFP.
“They broke the glass on warehouses by throwing rocks. They came at the police… Their demand is they don’t want to live here.”
One Rohingya man confirmed to AFP that bricks were thrown and that police prevented them from entering a building where the UNHCR officials were present.
After the first transfer on December 4 to the flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, several Rohingya told AFP that they were beaten and intimidated into agreeing to be relocated.
The claims have been echoed by rights groups.
The Bangladesh government has rejected the allegations, saying the island was safe and its facilities far better than those in the Cox’s Bazar camps.
The UN said it has not been involved in the process.