Rohingya refugees moved to the controversial island of Bangladesh after weeks at sea

DHAKA: Dozens of refugees stranded at sea for weeks have been relocated to a controversial flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh Authorities said Sunday.

Bangladesh last year constructed facilities for 100,000 people on Bhashan Char, a muddy silt islet in the cyclone-prone coastal belt, saying they needed to take pressure off crowded border camps that are home to almost one million Rohingya.

The 28 Rohingya were brought to the island on Saturday night instead of the fields, as authorities feared they might be infected, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told AFP.

They will most likely stay there until they return to Myanmar .

They are the first group of Rohingya to be sent to the island, local government administrator Tanmoy Das told AFP, adding that they were being cared for by Navy personnel who had built the facility.

Authorities said the group, which included 15 women and five children, was detained after disembarking on Saturday from one of two ships sucking at sea while trying to reach Malaysia.

Another 250 who also left the boat in six or seven boats have not been found, he added.

Bangladesh had refused to let the two trawlers carrying about 500 people land on its territory despite UN calls to allow them in as a powerful storm bears down on the region.

So far, no coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the sprawling camps in Bangladesh 's Cox's Bazar that house Rohingya who fled a 2017 military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar.

The Rohingya community has strongly opposed the plan to move the refugees to Bhashan Char.

The UN refugee agency said on Sunday that comprehensive evaluations were needed before anyone was transferred to the island, spokeswoman Louise Donovan told AFP.

UNHCR has all preparations to ensure the safe quarantine of any refugee arriving by boat at Cox's Bazar, as a precautionary measure related to the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.

Human rights observer The South Asian chief said the relocation would put refugees at greater risk after the suffering they have already suffered.

In mid-April, 396 hungry refugees were rescued from a trawler stranded in the Bay of Bengal for more than two months. At least 60 people died in the boat.

The survivors were transferred to transit centers near the border camps where they were quarantined.

Thousands of Rohingyas try each year to reach other countries, making the dangerous journey in crowded and rickety ships.

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