Authorities in Bangladesh are pushing ahead with the relocation of tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal against their will.

Iran PressAsia: On Thursday, the first group of about 1,500 Rohingya was placed aboard several navy vessels heading toward Bhashan Char, located about 120 miles south of the capital, Dhaka.

Bangladeshi officials first proposed the island in 2015 as an option for some of the hundreds of thousands who have been housed for years in camps since fleeing brutal crackdowns by the military in neighboring Myanmar. But the idea was put on hold because of potentially unsafe conditions on the cyclone and flood-prone island.

Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, likens the island to "a de facto prison island. It's like the Rohingya Alcatraz."

Robertson says, "There are concerns about health, there are concerns about medical services, there's concern about adequate amounts of food and other supplies. I mean, it's a disaster waiting to happen."

The UN said Wednesday that it is aware of reports of Bangladeshi authorities starting the relocation process, but said it had not reviewed the operation beforehand.

The UN said any relocation plan for Bhashan Char should involve a review of the safety, feasibility, and sustainability of the island for refugees to live in and should involve the full consent of the Rohingya.

"The United Nations has not been involved in preparations for this movement or the identification of refugees and has limited information on the overall relocation exercise," the UN said.

Amnesty International called on Bangladesh to halt the relocation altogether, saying that authorities should "return those on the island to their families and community in mainland Bangladesh, and follow due process including the full and meaningful participation of refugees in any plan for their relocation."

About 1 million Rohingya live in a massive refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, unable or unwilling to go back to Myanmar.

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Although many Rohingya came to Bangladesh in the preceding years, most were forced to flee from Myanmar's western Rakhine state in 2017 during a systematic campaign by the army against them. The military is accused of war crimes that include rape, murder, and the destruction of thousands of homes. Myanmar has denied those allegations.