“It’s difficult at this stage to imagine any Rohingya volunteering to go, but coercion comes in many shapes and sizes and is likely to rear its head.”
Mr Smith added: “This isn’t strategic diplomacy, it’s spineless. Bhasan Char isn’t a solution, it’s a problem. The government wants everyone to believe this is the only option for overcrowded camps, but’s that untrue. The authorities can find other options in Cox’s Bazar District.”
Mozammel Haque, the head of Bangladesh’s cabinet committee on law and order, has previously described the accommodation of refugees as an internal affair, dismissing concerns about Bhasan Char and setting an April timeframe for relocation.
However, local reports suggest that deadline has now been delayed indefinitely in order to reach consensus with the international community.
In January, Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, raised her concerns after an on-site visit. “There are a number of things that remain unknown to me even following my visit, chief among them being whether the island is truly habitable,” she said.
In a statement issued on Monday, the office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh said it appreciated Dhaka’s efforts to seek alternative locations to help decongestion but that any move to Bhasan Char or humanitarian response would require “thorough assessments.”