HRW: Bangladesh should reunify refugee families
Sabah Mannan of DOT
 Yesterday, the New York–based rights group Human Rights Watch stated that Bangladesh government should bring the refugees, who were kept in the island of Bhasan Char, back to their families in Cox’s Bazar, reports HRW.org.  In a report, the HRW, said that the Bangladesh government had failed to honour its pledge not to involuntarily hold Rohingya refugees in the island of Bhasan Char.
 On September 5, 2020, the government arranged a three-day ‘go and see visit’ to Bhasan Char for 40 Rohingya refugees, including camp leaders, during which those on the island begged to be allowed to return to their families in Cox’s Bazar camps.
 Human Rights Watch interviewed 20 Rohingya refugees from the visiting delegation after they returned to Cox’s Bazar from Bhasan Char on September 8.
 Some said that they wanted the refugees, detained on the island, to be allowed to return with them, said the rights group quoting the refugees.
 Others expressed serious concerns over the quality of medical facilities in the island, the lack of livelihood opportunities, and the safety of the island during monsoon season. ‘The Bangladesh government is confining refugees in a remote island, separating from their families, claiming that it is safe and habitable.
Only by allowing UN experts to conduct a long-promised independent assessment would it be possible to determine the feasibility, safety, and sustainability of the arrangements at Bhasan Char.’ said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The visit was arranged without consultation with United Nations agencies or nongovernmental organisations though the government had repeatedly promised that it would await clearance from UN agencies and independent technical experts on emergency preparedness, habitability, and safety of the island before relocating Rohingya to the island, the report said.
The government was yet to allow UN refugee agency officials to conduct a protection visit for the 306 refugees detained in Bhasan Char, including at least 33 children, it added.
‘Go-and-see’ visits, when arranged by the UN refugee agency, are usually organised as a part of steps to facilitate the safe, voluntary, and dignified return of refugees to their countries of origin. They are not employed as a standalone measure and are accompanied by a range of humanitarian assessments to ensure the protection of returnees. If the Bangladesh government wants to borrow this concept for the relocation of refugees to Bhasan Char, it should allow UN and international experts to visit the island,’ Human Rights Watch report said.
The arbitrary detention of hundreds of refugees in a remote island without access to humanitarian assistance or basic services violates Bangladesh’s international human rights obligations to provide security, freedom of movement, access to medical care, education, and the right to work, it added.
Adams said that the government should listen to refugees’ most basic plea — to be safely reunited with their families.