Bangladesh ships carried about 1,600 Rohingya Muslims to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal on Friday despite complaints by refugees and rights groups that some were being forced.
Authorities said they were only transferring people who were willing to go and that the move will ease overcrowding in camps that are home to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees.
In 2017, more than 730,000 Rohingya fled neighbouring Myanmar following a crackdown that the United Nations said was executed with genocidal intent. Myanmar denies genocide and says its forces were targeting Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.
On Friday, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said it planned to relocate 100,000 Rohingya because of “extreme congestion” and the “deteriorating security situation” in the camps, as well as that it hoped the UN would soon help out. It added that all refugees went voluntarily.
The UN has said it has only received limited information about the move. Some aid workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said however, that government officials threatened refugees to persuade them to go to the island.