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Bangladesh Begins Relocating 2nd Group of About 1,000 Rohingya Refugees


File: Rohingya refugees are seen aboard a ship as they are moved to Bhasan Char island, Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has begun moving a second group of Rohingya refugees to a low-lying island in the Bay of Bengal, despite strong opposition by international human rights activists.

Officials say more than 1,000 Rohingyas are expected to arrive at Bhasan Char aboard several ships sometime Tuesday, a day after leaving the overcrowded, squalid camps in the Cox’s Bazar district.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abdul Momen said Monday the refugees are being relocated to what he called a "beautiful resort."

Momen maintained that the island was "100 times better" than the camps where the refugees are presently housed, and that they had "appealed" to be taken to Bhashan Char.

But the refugees themselves and humanitarian workers have said that some of the Rohingya had been coerced to accept going there.

Earlier this month, the first group of more than 1,600 Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were taken to Bhashan Char.

International and local humanitarian agencies, as well as rights groups, have objected to the move, saying the island, which is several hours away from the mainland by boat, is flood-prone, subject to frequent cyclones and could be submerged during a high tide.

Bhashan Char emerged from the sea 20 years ago and has never been inhabited.

More than 730,000 Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar's northern Rakhine state for neighboring Bangladesh after attacks by Rohingya militants against state security forces in August 2017 led to brutal military “clearance operations” that the U.N. said was tantamount to “ethnic cleansing.”

Myanmar has repeatedly denied the ethnic cleansing charge, saying its troops targeted Rohingya militants.