Another 3,000 Rohingya refugees have been relocated by Bangladesh to a remote silt island in the Bay of Bengal, officials said Tuesday, bringing the total number taken to the new settlement to more than 10,000.
Dhaka wants to relocate 100,000 Rohingya from squalid border camps in southeastern Bangladesh, where nearly a million of the Muslim minority have lived in crowded conditions since fleeing a 2017 military offensive in neighboring Myanmar.
Their arrival comes after around 7,000 men, women and children were taken in December and January to the 53-square-kilometer island, which is a three-hour boat journey from the southeastern port of Chittagong.
Bangladesh’s Deputy Refugee Commissioner Mohammad Shamsud Douza told AFP the Rohingya had moved to the island “spontaneously and willingly.”
“They are taking their dogs, bunnies and goats to the island with them,” Douza said.
But rights activists say not all the refugees have left voluntarily and critics have said the island is prone to flooding and is in the path of deadly cyclones.
There has been fighting in recent months between rival Rohingya drug gangs in southeastern Bangladesh’s refugee camps — the world’s largest — with several people killed and several others reported injured.
Officials said they were hoping to move more refugees to the island ahead of the April-May cyclone season and the June-September monsoon, when the sea is rough.
The United Nations says it has not been involved in the relocations.