The Rohingya Muslims have been driven out by their homeland along the coast of Myanmar and into Bangladesh through army purges that United Nations officials call “genocidal.”
Now the Rohingya may be pushed even farther from home: banished to a remote island off the coast of Bangladesh. There are nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees living in squalid camps in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most crowded nations. Officials there are planning to relocate many of them to this tiny island as soon as next year.
The island is out in the middle of the Bay of Bengal — about three hours off of mainland Bangledesh — and it’s mostly composed of silt. It’s been created naturally over the past 20 years but even 50 years ago, you couldn’t find it on a map.
So far, there’s been no official poll on how Rohingya broadly feel about the move but there is vocal pushback. A Rohingya-run advocacy news outlet called Arakan Times has been posting footage of roughly a hundred or so refugees in the camps chanting “no way, no way” — meaning, “no way” will they go to this island.
A Rohingya man named Nay San Lwin is an activist and blogger living in Germany who has visited refugee camps in Bangladesh multiple times this year, namely camps near Cox’s Bazaar — which is now flooded with international aid groups.
“Nobody likes this plan. I have talked with many fellow Rohingya in the camp. Nobody wants to move there, said Nay San Lwin. “At least in Cox’s Bazaar, they have access to everything. There are humanitarian organizations. Aid organizations. UN organizations. But once they move to this island, they will have everything limited.”