Bangladesh signs U.N. deal to help Rohingya refugees on island

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Bangladesh signs U.N. deal to help Rohingya refugees on island

  • Recently, U.N. officials signed a deal with Bangladesh to help provide basic services to thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who have been moved to camps on a remote island in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Earlier, some 19,000 of the Muslim refugees from Myanmar have already relocated from crowded camps on the mainland to Bhashan Char island, despite doubts raised by aid groups.


  • Rohingya Muslims comprise one million out of the 53 million people that live in Myanmar, forming the world’s largest stateless population in a single country.
  • Universally reviled by the country’s Buddhist majority, they have been oppressed by the government since the late 1970s when the government launched a campaign to identify ‘illegal immigrants’.
  • Serious abuses were committed, forcing as many as 250,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh.
  • The 1982 Citizenship Law in former Burma made the Rohingyas stateless people.
  • They have often been called the most persecuted minority in the world.
  • The 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims squeezed precariously into the north-west state of Rakhine, in mainly Buddhist Burma, bordering majority Muslim Bangladesh, are stateless and unwanted.
  • They were classified as “resident foreigners or associate citizens”.
  • Ethnically they are much closer to Indo-Aryan people of India and Bangladesh than to the Sino-Tibetans of the Country.
  • Described by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world”.

What’s the main concern now?

  • Bhasan Char (Floating Island) also known as Char Piya or Thengar Char Island, is an island in Hatiya, Bangladesh.
  • The island was formed from a build-up of silt in the Bay of Bengal only 20 years ago, and concerns have been consistently raised about Bhasan Char’s exposure to extreme weather and distance from the mainland in emergencies.

Protection available to Rohingyas under the International Conventions:

  • The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol:
  • They define the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.
  • The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.
  • However, the concern now is that Bangladesh is not a signatory to this convention.
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR):
  • Even though the refugees are foreigners in the country of asylum, by virtue of Article 2 of the ICCPR, 1966, they could enjoy the same fundamental rights and freedoms as nationals- the right to equality before the law, equal protection of the law and non-discrimination.

Bhashan Char :

  • The Bhashan Char Island is a remote uninhabited island of Bangladesh, located in the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is also known as Char Piya.
  • Around thousands of Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar refugee camp are being shifted to the newly developed facility in the island.
  • Humanitarians oppose this move fearing poor liveable conditions in the new island and demand for independent assessment by the United Nations. Environmentalists warn that the island is ecologically fragile are prone to floods and cyclones.