Bangladesh delays plan to shift Rohingya to remote island

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DHAKA: Bangladesh has postponed plans to begin relocating Rohingya Muslims to a remote island, officials said yesterday, amid staunch opposition to the controversial idea among refugees living near the Myanmar border.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was slated to open the new settlement built to house 100,000 refugees on Bhashan Char on October 3, despite warnings the silty strip was prone to violent weather.

But a spokesman for Bangladesh´s armed forces, which has overseen the $280 million-effort to transform the muddy islet into a habitable camp, said the opening ceremony had been delayed. “We will announce a new date soon,” Lieutenant Colonel Alamgir Kabir told media, without providing further details.

The controversial plan, first floated in 2015, was already well behind schedule.

Officials previously said they wanted to start moving refugees from overcrowded camps near the border with Myanmar to the island in June, before the monsoon season began.

A senior disaster management official told media in September that nearly three-quarters of the project was complete, with the navy fast-tracking construction of shelters and evacuation centres. No reason was provided for the latest delay.

But the proposal to uproot the refugees to a remote island that only rose from the sea in 2006 remains unpopular in the teeming Rohingya camps. —Agencies

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