Authorities sent 1,778 refugees to the island of Bhasan Char in four navy vessels from the southeastern port city of Chattogram on Friday, according to a commander of the Bangladesh navy, Mozammel Haque.
“They will be checked by our doctors when they arrive today. They will be given food and accommodation properly,” he said.
A fourth group of the refugees will be sent to the island on Saturday, according to the commander.
“Around 4,000 refugees have already been sent to the island since December, but we have the capacity of accommodating 100,000,” said the commander. “The process will continue until we fulfill it.”
The refugees being relocated are among about one million Rohingya Muslims who have fled a state-sponsored crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Up to 100,000 refugees are living in cramped camps in Cox’s Bazar, near the Myanmar border.
The Bangladeshi government constructed a network of shelters on the remote island to relocate the Muslim refugees.
Human rights groups have criticized the “coercive” relocation of the Muslim refugees to the facility, where they will be facing a lack of adequate medical care and that they could be denied freedom of movement, sustainable livelihoods or education.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina denied forced removal of the Rohingya from Cox’s Bazar, saying they were moving to the island voluntarily where they will be offered better living conditions.
The Navy commander also said on Friday that the government wanted the refugees to contribute to the economy, but their repatriation to their home country, Myanmar is the ultimate goal.
The Rohingya Muslims were forced to leave their homeland amid the military-led crackdown against their community, which according to the United Nations is the most prosecuted minority in the world.
Thousands were killed, and many others were raped, tortured, or arrested in the crackdown which, according to UN, was perpetrated with “genocidal intent.”
The Rohingya are widely seen as illegal immigrants in Myanmar and denied the right of citizenship. Bangladesh also refuses to grant them citizenship.