Recently, authorities in Bangladesh sent the first group of more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees to an isolated Bhasan Char island in the Bay of Bengal.
- The Rohingya people are stateless, Indo-Aryan ethnic group who reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
- There were an estimated 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis.
- An estimated 625,000 refugees from Rakhine, Myanmar, had crossed the border into Bangladesh since August 2017. The majority are Muslim while a minority are Hindu.
- They are described by the United Nations (UN) as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
- The Rohingya population is denied citizenship under the 1982 Myanmar nationality law. They have denied the Rohingya the possibility of acquiring a nationality.
- Although Rohingya history in the region can be traced back to the 8 century, Myanmar law does not recognize the ethnic minority as one of the eight national indigenous races.
- The flow of Rohingya from Myanmar intensified in 2017 and the coast near the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar was taken over by refugee settlements.
- In June 2015, the Bangladesh government suggested resettling Rohingya refugees on the Bhasan Char island under its Ashrayan Project.
- The UN and various other human rights agencies are against this relocation as they believe that Rohingya refugees must be able to make a free and informed decision about relocating to the island based upon relevant, accurate and updated information.
- Earlier this year, Amnesty International released a damning report on the conditions faced by Rohingyas already living on the island.
- The report contained allegations of cramped and unhygienic living conditions, limited food and healthcare facilities, a lack of phones, as well as cases of sexual harassment by both the Navy and local labourers engaging in extortion.
- India maintains that Rohingyas are a threat to its national security and have links with international terror groups.
- India has so far refused to exert any pressure on Myanmar for taking the Rohingyas back and giving them recognition as the citizens of Myanmar.
It is not too late for Myanmaar to change course and reorient itself to transform into a democracy that embraces human rights for all, by addressing issues of discrimination, implementing victim-centered justice mechanisms, rewriting laws and holding those who have violated human rights accountable.