Bhasan Char: Rohingyas gradually getting involved in economic activities

The Rohingyas, now living in Bhasan Char, are gradually getting involved in economic activities and informal education which, the authorities say, will help Rohingyas stay away from committing any major crimes.

Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB) and over 40 non-government organisations (NGOs) are now working in Bhasan Char helping the Rohingyas get motivational courses and hands-on training on agriculture, fish cultivation, sewing skills and poultry rearing.

During a recent visit, a good number of Rohingyas – both men and women – were seen running shops in Bhasan Char in an effort to earn money in addition to the supports they receive.

“Rohingays will stay away from committing major crimes if they become committed to agriculture, fish cultivation, sewing and poultry rearing and get involved in other economic activities,” Commodore Abdullah Al Mamun Chowdhury, project director of the Ashrayan-3 Project (Bhasan Char project), told UNB.

Though some pilot projects are currently in place, the NGOs are submitting concrete projects, and they will be in a better position by the next one month, he said.

The Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar witnessed a number of killings over establishing supremacy among various groups.

While visiting a training centre in Bhasan Char, BRDB Joint Director Sukumar Chandra Das said they have so far provided training to 750 Rohingyas on a number of areas.

Fish cultivation, poultry, sewing machine operation, agriculture, vegetable production, handicrafts and farming are among the areas of interest.

Sukumar Chandra said it is under consideration to take projects involving trained Rohingyas in productive activities.

Kay Kraft, fashion house, is providing training to Rohingya women in Bhasan Char to get them involved in productive economic activities.

Kay Kraft is initially providing training to 150 Rohingya women for three months on cutting, sewing, printing, design, block printing and machine embroidery.

Talking to UNB, a Rohingya female trainee at BRDB training class said they are undergoing a five-day basic training on sewing. “It’s our fourth day. We’re 40 women here. We didn’t have this opportunity at Cox’s Bazar camp.”

She said they will use the clothes initially for their family members and they will sell once they become fully skilled to produce quality products. “If we can earn a little bit of money, it’ll be good for us.”

Commodore Mamun said the Rohingyas will not face any embargo while getting involved in economic activities as there is no host community in Bhasan Char.

The biggest concern that he saw among the Rohingyas is the future of their children. Commodore Mamun said children are getting informal education in Bhasan Char.

Abdullah Al Mamun, Community Engagement Officer at Alliance for Cooperative and Legal Aid Bangladesh (ACLAB), told UNB that they are providing informal education to Rohingya children in English and Burmese language in two shifts – morning and afternoon.

“Primarily, we’re spending money from our own funds. We’re expecting funding soon,” he said standing beside the learning centre.

Commodore Mamun said the Rohingyas are willing to return to their homes in Myanmar safely but until now they are living here comfortably.

The numerous challenges associated with the temporary hosting of persecuted Rohingyas from Myanmar have compelled the government of Bangladesh to plan the relocation of 100,000 Rohingyas to Bhasan Char, Bangladesh says.

Accordingly, 1,642 Rohingyas were relocated to Bhasan Char on December 4 and the second batch, comprising 1,804 Rohingyas, had been transferred from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char on December 29 last year.

Referring to his discussions with the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, he said there are more Rohingyas who are willing to come as the next batch will be relocated soon.

So far, over 7,000 Rohingyas were shifted to Bhasan Char voluntarily and the last relocation took place on January 28-29.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.

On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

Bangladesh says the Rohingyas do not trust their government, and Bangladesh gave a number of proposals to build trust among them.

Bangladesh is trying it in multiple ways — bilaterally, multilaterally, tri-laterally and through the judicial system — to find a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis.

Bangladesh proposed deployment of nonmilitary civilian observers from Myanmar’s friendly countries — Japan, China, Russia, India and Asean countries.