Dhaka, Oct 7: Senior officials at the United Nations have expressed concern over Bangladesh’s plan to build ‘the world’s biggest refugee camp’ for the Rohingyas escaping persecution in Myanmar. Critics of the move claim that keeping as high as 8,00,000 refugees closely knit could lead to higher transmission of diseases among them.
Robert Watkins, the UN resident coordinator in Dhaka, said the Rohingyas are “vulnerable to diseases”. And by grouping them together in a small place, he claimed, the risk of epidemic escalates.
“There are stronger possibilities, if there are any infectious diseases that spread, that will spread very quickly,” Wilkins, said while speaking to news agency AFP.
The proposed refugee centre, aimed at providing residential facilities of 8,00,000 Rohingya refugees, would be constructed on a land spreading over 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares). The plot is located next to Kutupalong in Cox’s Bazaar, where nearly a million refugees are currently camping.
According to Wilkins, the move could backfire from both health and security perspective. “It is much easier to manage the health situation and security situation if there are a number of different camps rather than one concentrated camp,” he added.
However, the Sheikh Hasina-led government claims that the country’s intelligence has recommended the setting up a concentrated refugee camp in order to maintain vigil and ward off the threat of terror indoctrination.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) has agreed to aide the Bangladeshi government in building shelters at the camp site.
IOM spokesperson Joel Millman said the proposed refugee camp being built in Bangladesh will dwarf the Bidi Bidi camp in Uganda and Dadaab in Kenya, which house around 300,000 refugees.
Millman said at least 7,00,000 refugees would be staying at the refugee camp in Cox Bazaar, adding that the agencies linked to UN “wouldn’t be undertaking this if we didn’t think it was feasible”.
Bangladesh, which is sheltering nearly 6,00,000 refugees so far, is facing an influx of nearly 4,000-5,000 refugees per week. According to the authorities in Dhaka, at least 10,000 Rohingyas are waiting at the borders to cross over.