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Authorities in Bangladesh sent a third group of Rohingya refugees to a newly developed island in the Bay of Bengal on Friday, despite calls by human rights groups for a halt to the process.

The government insists the relocation plan is meant to offer better living conditions while attempts to repatriate more than 1 million refugees to Myanmar would continue.

On Friday morning, 1,778 refugees started their journey to the island of Bhasan Char in four navy vessels, after they were brought to the southeastern port city of Chattogram from crammed camps in Cox’s Bazar district, said M. Mozammel Haque, a commander of the Bangladesh navy.

While human rights groups criticised the move, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina repeatedly said the refugees were moving to the island voluntarily under government management.

Authorities say the refugees were selected for relocation based on their willingness, and that no pressure was applied. But several human rights and activist groups say some refugees have been forced to go to the island, located 34km (21 miles) from the mainland.

Source: AP