The United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar on Thursday visited a remote island where Bangladeshi authorities were looking to relocate 100,000 Rohingyas, plans that have drawn criticism from rights groups.
Yanghee Lee traveled to Bhasan Char Island off southern Bangladesh by helicopter with government officials, where she inspected the shelters and facilities built there.
"We spent nearly three hours there. She visited the shelters, embankment and other facilities and made some inquiries," Shah Rezwan Hayat, deputy secretary at Bangladesh’s disaster management ministry, told Efe.
Spokesperson for the UN rapporteur, Drake Georgia, said Lee would comment on her visit at her press conference on Friday.
The island, also known as Thengar Char, is located in the Bay of Bengal in the south of the country. It emerged from the sea about a decade ago and covers an area of about 40 square kilometers.
Motorboats are commonly used to travel to the island, which is often hit by monsoon floods.
Several human rights organizations and UN agencies earlier criticized the decision to move refugees to the island and urged the Bangladeshi government "not to replace one humanitarian crisis with another."
The government said 1,440 shelters had been built on the island, which was currently uninhabited, to house Rohingya refugees and each shelter with space for 16 families.
Besides those shelters, some 120 cyclone shelters were also built on the island.
Bangladesh took on the project to house Rohingya refugees on Bhasan Char in November 2017 at an estimated cost of 23.12 billion Bangladeshi taka ($272 million), with the Bangladesh Navy given responsibility for carrying it out.
Work was expected to be completed by June 2019.
"It is now ready to host the Rohingyas, but we are yet to fix any date to start the relocation," Shah Kamal, secretary of the disaster management ministry, told EFE.
About 738,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Cox's Bazar since the beginning of the crisis on Aug. 25, 2017 after a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN has described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."