From persecution to isolation: Rohingyas trapped on Bay of Bengal island
- Rohingya Muslims have been reportedly subjected to deadly crackdowns by Myanmar’s army
- Many have risked everything to escape by sea or on foot
- The first planned 100,000 refugees arrived on Bhusan Char
For years, Rohingya Muslims have been reportedly subjected to deadly crackdowns by Myanmar’s army as a result of which hundreds of thousands had to flee across the border into neighbouring countries.
Many have risked everything to escape by sea or on foot, so did Dilara - one of the countless refugees resulting from the violence. She set off from the Bangladeshi coast in the hope of a new life in Malaysia.
However, Dilara, along with hundreds of others who had cramped onto the boat, were turned away at the border and had to be rescued after spending days floating at sea. They never returned to the mainland and the families they had left behind and were instead left on an island created out of silt in the middle of the Bay of Bengal.
An unmarried young woman, who fears leaving her room after dark, Dilara told BBC that she doesn’t know how long she will be there. She said she has no way out and that she will grow old and die there alone.
Dilara was among the first of the planned 100,000 Rohingya refugees to arrive on Bhusan Char, a piece of land measuring 40 square kilometres that had only been used as a brief stop off-point for fishermen.
Bhusan Char has been used as a part of the solution to the overcrowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, which is home to the millions of Rohingya refugees who arrived in past years.
According to the authorities, Rohingyas have made the refugee camps their homes, however, it eventually turned into a hotbed of crime.
But the refugees on the small island of Himlayan silt says a different story, reported BBC.
For them, the place has no work opportunity, few facilities, and little hope of a better future. And those who try to flee, are caught and beaten, sometimes the refugees turn on each other in frustration.
The refugees claim that the land is just 2 metres above sea level and they that during a heavy storm they could be easily washed away.
Last year, BBC has granted a tour of the island and despite that, it is hard to say what is happening there. No journalists, aid agencies, or human rights groups have been given free access to Bhasan Char.
However, according to BBC, talking to a few of the residents, the fear was evident as one woman said that when arrived at the desolate place she wondered "how we would survive here."
One of the biggest problems is they can’t afford anything more than very basic food. In Bhasan Char, families are provided with staples like rice, lentils, and cooking oil. But the refugees need to buy other items on their own like vegetables, fish, and meat.
There is no market, but shops owned by the Bangladeshi on the Island. It is impossible to travel to the mainland, reportedly, no ferry service exists and the navy only transports the refugees one way.
Back in February, the island’s first protest was sparked because of the food. A video seen by the BBC shows Rohingya women and men running with sticks and shouting.
Shah Rezwan Hayat, the head of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), denied recognising it as a protest. However, the refugees say desperation is growing day by day and some of them are risking their lives to leave Bhasan Char.
Human Rights Watch has said even the children were punished for moving out of their designated areas.
A report from last month stated: "On 12 April, a Bangladesh sailor allegedly beat four children with a PVC pipe for leaving their quarters to play with refugee children in another area."
Meanwhile, the government has promised new schemes to provide income to the 18,400 refugees now living in the camp, however, most of them are tired of waiting.
All the refugees who spoke to the BBC said they want to go back to the mainland if they get a chance.