Cox Bazaar, which is home to nearly one million Rohingya refugees, has been in a tight block since the beginning of April – only very limited movement is allowed within the seedy mass of makeshift camps.
Rashid says the group – which includes 19 women, five men and five children – is not believed to be suffering from the virus that has killed nearly 250,000 people worldwide.
“They have no crown symptoms, but medical investigations and tests are ongoing,” said Rashid.
Bangladesh Refugee Relief and Return Commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder confirmed that 29 people had been “sent to Bhashan Char by the Bangladesh army” where they have access to medical facilities, food and water. Talukder added that it is unclear whether they will be returned to the mainland after a quarantine period or whether they will remain there.
They are the first Rohingya refugees to be sent to the island. The government has built structures there for several years, with plans to relocate thousands of people from Cox’s Bazar, although no timetable has been set.
CNN was unable to reach Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry for comment.
Low and uninhabited island
The transfer of Rohingya refugees to Bhashan Char is also problematic. The United Nations says more time is needed to assess the safety of the uninhabited island, as it is often partially submerged during the monsoon season, which is rapidly approaching.
“The long-standing position of the United Nations is that comprehensive technical and protective assessments for assessing the safety and sustainability of life on Bhasan Char are essential before any transfer to the island takes place,” said Louise Donovan of the United Nations Refugee (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar. “The United Nations has long been prepared to proceed with on-site evaluation work.”
As of Friday, according to Amnesty International, about 800 Rohingya refugees would have been stranded on boats in the Gulf of Bengal.
“The COVID-19 pandemic cannot justify states’ refusal to allow Rohingya to land,” says the letter. “Forcing refugees to stay aboard boats also poses risks for their right to health and potentially their right to life.”
Louise Donovan of UNHCR said that any refugee arriving in Cox Bazaar would undergo “full medical screening” before being quarantined for 14 days.
“The public health imperatives 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 to 2015’
“It’s like deja vu for 2015,” said Yanghee Lee, a former UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, in an interview with CNN on April 28, before his mandate was added.
Last month, UNHCR said 30 Rohingya refugees died at sea after a boat “ran out of food, water and fuel during a nearly two-month long journey at sea”. Nearly 400 others were rescued by Bangladesh authorities and screened and quarantined upon arrival, UNHCR added.
“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,” said UNHCR. He added that there was no evidence that anyone on board contracted Covid-19.
“I understand there are some boats full of Rohingya that are not allowed to enter or dock in neighboring ASEAN countries,” said Yanghee Lee. “I would really like to appeal to the leadership of those respective governments, that there are ways to get them in and quarantined.”
However, ASEAN countries seem reluctant to welcome refugees as border restrictions tighten to control the spread of coronavirus.
“The Ministry of the Interior wants to emphasize that the authorities will always be ready to prevent any intrusion on its borders and in territorial waters,” Hamzah said, adding that Malaysia distributed food supplies for humanitarian reasons, before escorting the boat out of the water. of the country.