The Bangladeshi authorities must abandon plans to relocate over 100 Rohingya families to a remote Bay of Bengal island which the United Nations has not declared safe for human habitation yet and where many refugees are still reluctant to relocate, said Amnesty International.
The government has completed preparations to relocate 300-400 refugees to Bhashan Char this month on a "voluntary basis" but refugees interviewed recently said government officials in charge of camps coerced them into registering for relocation, the rights organisation said in a press release.
Amnesty International claimed it has obtained a partial list of the Rohingya families identified for relocation to Bhashan Char where over 300 refugees are already living in poor conditions.
"Any decisions relating to refugee relocation must be transparent and involve the full participation of the Rohingya people. Meanwhile, plans for any further relocations must be abandoned," said Omar Waraich, head of South Asia at Amnesty International.
He also said the Bangladeshi authorities must let the UN carry out an assessment of Bhashan Char and immediately return the hundreds of Rohingya refugees currently on the island to their families in Cox's Bazar.
The international rights body further claimed that two Rohingya families were put on the list for relocation after they reported partial damage of their shelters to a Rohingya community leader, majhi, selected by the Bangladeshi authorities.
Instead of having their shelters repaired, they were told that they must relocate to Bhashan Char, said the release.
One member of a family interviewed by Amnesty International said he registered to relocate to the island in 2019, after being deprived of relief support by the majhi in his camp, according to the statement.
"I wanted to relocate to the island at that time to escape from a society where some powerful people were discriminating against the poor. The majhis were abusing their power on me. But the problem is resolved now," the organisation quoted him as saying.
He is, however, on the list for relocation prepared this month by the government official in charge of the refugee camp, the release noted.
A head majhi told Amnesty International that government officials in charge of camps put pressure on them to provide lists of refugees to be relocated, it also said.
"Based on the experiences of those that Amnesty International has spoken to, many of the Rohingya who have signed up to relocate to Bhashan Char are doing so out of compulsion rather than choice," said Omar Waraich.
Amnesty International also called for unfettered access to Bhashan Char for rights and humanitarian organizations to carry out independent assessments.