February 21, 2017
Mohammed Imran, the author of this letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is a credentialed former camp leader of Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar.
The letter is an appeal to the prime minister to reconsider a recent Bangladesh government decision to relocate Rohingya refugees from existing refugee camps to the Thengar Char area.
After failing to get the letter sent to the Bangladesh government via the camp in-charge, an employee of the government, he sent it to the Dhaka Tribune requesting that it be published.
Honorable Prime Minister,
SUBJECT: Government should reconsider the relocation of refugees to Thengar Char on the Island of Hatiya
We, the Myanmar refugees under Government’s protection, submit to you that the Government’s plan to move thousands of registered Rohingya refugees to the Island of Hatiya located in southern Bangladesh amounts to imprisonment in a flood-prone place of extreme isolation. Many of us have been living over two decades in refugee camps near the Myanmar border. We understand that the area where Rohingya refugees are confined is a major tourist attraction, which is the official reason the Government has given for wanting to shift them to this island – it feels it will enrich the environment for tourism in Cox’s Bazar.
In the two “official” camps in Cox’s Bazar, approximately 38,000 refugees live under the protection of the UNHCR, while over 3 lakhs more live in “unofficial” camps. This place where the Government plans to move the refugees is a known climate-impacted area. Many of the locals on the island have already been displaced due to flooding. This plan would only jeopardize the lives of thousands of refugees. In addition, several local organisations on this island have already expressed their concerns and protested against refugees being relocated there.
Knowing that moving refugees to Hatiya will put their lives in physical danger makes this plan unjust. No doubt the idea is to keep them from ever leaving the island, pending some sort of unlikely repatriation to Myanmar. And the island’s isolation from the mainland brings questions of access to power, healthcare, education, and a guarantee of adequate and timely delivery of necessary supplies. Would others (volunteers, etc.) be able to reach the island to provide assistance?
We, the affected refugees, ask that a durable and lasting solution be pursued without moving us from our present locations. If the Government has a sincere intention to improve the living standard of refugees as it states, it must know that we realise there is no guarantee of safety and protection if we are moved to Hatiya Island. It is important that they know that the world realises it as well.
We implore you to intervene on our behalf in this matter as we are very concerned about our safety and have no other recourse. We are at your mercy.
Rohingya refugee community in Kutupalong.