A group of Rohingya women kept on a remote Bangladeshi islet in the Bay of Bengal for months have been on hunger strike for the past five days, demanding that they be taken back to their families living in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, southern Bangladesh.
Some 306 Rohingya, including at least 33 children and more than 100 young girls and women, have been confined to the Bhasan Char islet off Bangladesh’s southwestern coast since early May.
They were moved to the island after being stranded in the Bay of Bengal for weeks during a failed attempt to migrate to a third country.
Bangladesh, which is host to over a million Rohingya refugees, hopes to relocate the persecuted community to the tiny islet despite widespread criticism of its plan.
“The Rohingya people are living like prisoners on that island. They are facing many problems, and the authorities have taken away their mobile SIM cards to keep them in complete isolation,” Ansar Ali, a Rohingya living in the Kutupalang camps in Cox’s Bazar, told Anadolu Agency.
“We’re in extremely worried for them, especially the young women who have been separated from their families for more than four months and are leading an unsafe life on the island.”
Bangladeshi authorities cite the coronavirus risk as the reason for not taking the refugees back to the crammed Cox’s Bazar camps, home to more than 1.2 million Rohingya who fled the August 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
However, Khin Maung, founder and executive director of the Bangladesh-based Rohingya Youth Association, said the people on the island have been in isolation for more than three months and “should be immediately reunited with their families.”