The United Nations is working on a controversial plan to move Rohingya refugees to a remote island off the coast of Bangladesh, so as to ease overcrowding at its refugee camps at Cox's Bazar.
However, according to Reuters, human rights experts fear the new plan could spark a new crisis for the refugees, as the island, Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal, is flood-prone, vulnerable to frequent cyclones and could be completely submerged during a high tide, and has never been inhabited.
A document drawn up by the World Food Programme (WFP) and seen by Reuters, the UN's food aid arm, shows the agency has supplied the Bangladesh government with detailed plans – including a timeline and budget – of how it could provide for thousands of Rohingya to be transported to Bhasan Char within weeks. It stresses that any relocation should be voluntary and done "in accordance with humanitarian principles and code of conduct."
The plan outlines how the organization “may facilitate the identification, staging, forward movement, reception, and sustainment of refugees," on Bhasan Char, estimating the need for an initial appeal for donor funding of between $8.6 and $19 million.
Gemma Snowdon, communications officer for WFP in Cox's Bazar, said this was part of ongoing discussions, with the government over the future of the refugees.
"The viability of safely relocating people to Bhasan Char needs to be thoroughly assessed and WFP is investigating the potential operational needs, financial costs, and challenges in several areas that we traditionally support in emergencies: food security, emergency telecommunications and logistics," she added.