Rohingya refugee children celebrate ‘lifeless’ Eid on remote Bangladesh island

DHAKA: Rohingya refugee children relocated with their families to a remote Bangladeshi island said on Monday they missed Eid Al-Fitr celebrations with friends and relatives.

Nearly 30,000 refugees have been moved to Bhasan Char — an island settlement in the Bay of Bengal several hours’ sail away from the mainland — since the end of 2020 with promises of a better life and livelihoods.

The facility, expected to eventually house 100,000 people, is part of Bangladesh’s effort to ease pressure on congested camps at Cox’s Bazar, where more than 1 million Rohingya refugees who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar are living.

The second Eid Al-Fitr on Bhasan Char has not eased the feeling of isolation for its residents, with children reminiscing about the festivities they had experienced at Cox’s Bazar. 

Rohingya children play at a refugee camp in Bhasan Char island, Bangladesh. (AN Photo)

“My Eid celebrations are almost lifeless,” Mohammed Noman Yusuf, 16, told Arab News.

“Most of my friends are still living in Cox’s Bazar camps, and I am missing them a lot. It’s not possible to meet them in person so I resorted to phone calls.”

To mark Eid Al-Fitr, authorities have provided families with food packages and new clothes, but an estimated 7,000 children at Bhasan Char still long for more than what the island life has to offer.

“Where should I go wearing this new cloth?” Yusuf said. “It’s an island and definitely a confined place. There is little room to roam around here and there with friends, which is part of my Eid celebrations.”

Mohammed Ayub, 12, is among those missing his life at Cox’s Bazar, where he recalled far more things to do to mark the end of the Ramadan holy month. 

Rohingya children play at a refugee camp in Bhasan Char island, Bangladesh. (AN Photo)

“My Eid celebrations at Cox’s Bazar were much more colorful. Most of my friends and relatives are living there. I used to enjoy the merry-go-round rides during the Eid fair held at Cox’s Bazar,” Ayub told Arab News.

“But here we don’t get such things on the occasion of Eid.”

The boy’s spirits were significantly lifted when his father gifted him a pair of trousers to mark the religious holiday this year, but Ayub still dreams of the feast that had accompanied Eid celebrations.

“Having rich food like beef and chicken during Eid boosts our celebrations, but without them there’s nothing special in our kitchen on this Eid,” he said.

Nasima Akter, 12, told Arab News that she used to visit the beach at Cox’s Bazar to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, but noted that this year was better because they had more neighbors. However, she missed her relatives who remained at the mainland refugee camps.

“Many of our relatives are still living at Kutupalong, Cox’s Bazar. I can’t see them on Eid days. It’s very sad for me,” Akter added.

Moazzam Hossain, Bangladesh’s additional refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, told Arab News that authorities were making arrangements to add to the festivities for the children.

“With limited resources, we are trying our best to make Eid celebrations more colorful and joyful for the Rohingyas at the island,” Hossain said.