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Bangladesh says once-submerged island ready for Rohingya

DHAKA, Bangladesh — An island in Bangladesh that was regularly submerged during monsoon seasons is ready to house 100,000 Rohingya refugees, but no date has been announced to begin relocating people from crowded and squalid camps on the country’s border with Myanmar, officials said Thursday.

Flood protection embankments, houses, hospitals, and mosques have been built on Bhasan Char, or floating island, in the Bay of Bengal, officials said.

“Bhasan Char is ready for habitation. Everything has been put in place,” Bangladesh refugee, relief, and repatriation commissioner Mahbub Alam Talukder told The Associated Press.

The island is built to accommodate 100,000 people, just a fraction of the million Rohingya Muslims who have fled waves of violent persecution in their native Myanmar.

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About 700,000 people came after August 2017, when the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar launched a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against Rohingya in response to an attack by insurgents. Global rights groups and the UN called the campaign ethnic cleansing involving rapes, killings and torching of thousands of homes.

Foreign media have not been permitted to visit the island.

Saleh Noman, a Bangladeshi freelance journalist who recently visited, described a community emerging there.

“I saw a market with about 10 grocery shops and roadside tea stalls. Some were selling fish and vegetables,” he said. “All is set there with a solar power system and water supply lines.”

Bangladesh is a low-lying delta nation. The island, 21 miles from the mainland, surfaced only 20 years ago and was never inhabited.

ASSOCIATED PRESS