Authorities in Bangladesh are taking measures that may breach international law and put the refugees at risk, Amnesty International said on Friday, raising concerns about “serious problems” in the complex housing project.
As many as 45,000 Rohingya are being housed in highly-concentrated camps of prefabricated steel houses on an island in the Bay of Bengal, where conditions for them are worsening as the monsoon season intensifies, Amnesty said.
Refugees are protected by international law and it is a matter of great concern that there are no separate camps for Rohingya, which they would have access to, said Bryan McClendon, associate director of Amnesty International USA.
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“While it is of course the government’s responsibility to provide adequate shelter for Rohingya, the fact that this was done in such a way that there is overcrowding has extremely serious implications on their safety and well-being.”
The International Organisation for Migration reports more than 9,000 Rohingya have been displaced by cyclone Nurul. Of this, more than 10,000 were sheltered in makeshift camps, which include Pakwa Bazar, about 80km south of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
The majority of those relocated to the village of Kara Pa Pa are Rohingya, with others from other parts of Bangladesh. Their housing consists of 50-metre high corrugated iron structures that come with access to electricity, sanitation and food.
An Amnesty report published on Friday described this as a “poor and unsatisfactory” way to house those fleeing persecution in Myanmar and said it is “further evidence of how Myanmar continues to flout its obligations towards the Rohingya in Bangladesh and has ignored its international legal obligations”.
The IOM reported that it needed more time for the Rohingya to adapt to the conditions and would relocate them to the existing temporary tent settlements on the outskirts of Cox’s Bazar.
Syed Mujtaba Hussain, the IOM country representative, said: “About 5,000 Rohingya received temporary shelter from the IOM on 27 September. As the season – until December 2019 – increases cyclone risk, the IOM is working with Myanmar authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of the Rohingya on the island.”
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About 700,000 Rohingya remain in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution and violence in Myanmar since late August 2017.
Separately, the UN’s food agency has said it is “deeply concerned” at the lack of access to emergency food.
For five weeks, the Bangladesh government and its international aid partners have not been able to deliver supplies to Rohingya refugees who fled the fighting between Rohingya and the Myanmar army in Rakhine state, an aid spokesman told the Guardian.
Suhail Fadhil, the spokesman for the World Food Programme, said in a statement: “Despite repeated appeals for basic food and nutrition needs for 500,000 internally displaced people in Cox’s Bazar and more than 450,000 scattered to more than a dozen temporary displacement sites elsewhere in Bangladesh, the UN and other partners have yet to receive sufficient government approvals to travel to some locations to distribute food.”