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4,000 Rohingya Muslims protest dire conditions on Bangladesh island

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh (Courtesy of Human Rights Watch)

Several thousand Rohingya Muslims staged protests Monday against living conditions on a cyclone-prone island off Bangladesh where they were moved from vast camps on the mainland, police said.

Since December, Bangladesh has shifted 18,000 out of a planned 100,000 refugees to the low-lying silt island of Bhashan Char from the Cox's Bazar region, where some 850,000 people live in squalid and cramped conditions.

Most of them had fled a brutal military offensive in neighboring Myanmar in 2017 that UN investigators concluded was executed with "genocidal intent."

Monday's protest involved up to 4,000 people, police said, and coincided with an inspection visit by officials from the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

After the first transfer on December 4 to the flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, several Rohingya told AFP that they were beaten and intimidated into agreeing to be relocated.

The claims have been echoed by rights groups.

The Bangladesh government has rejected the allegations, saying the island was safe and its facilities far better than those in the Cox's Bazar camps.

The UN said it has not been involved in the process.

A UNHCR spokesperson said the delegation was able to meet with a large group of refugees and to listen to the various issues that they raised, which the delegation will further discuss with the Bangladesh authorities.

(Source: AFP)


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