UN urges countries to save 200 stranded Rohingya since Dec 1

UN urges countries to save 200 stranded Rohingya since Dec 1

DHAKA, Bangladesh – The UN refugee agency on Wednesday urged countries in the region to help save the lives of about 200 Rohingya refugees whose boat has been stranded off the coast of Thailand since December 1.

Unverified information said a number of Rohingya, including women and children, have already lost their lives, and there is a significant risk of additional fatalities in the coming days if people are not rescued and disembarked to safety, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement.

The refugee agency has urged countries in the region to immediately rescue and safely disembark a group of Rohingya refugees who are reported to be drifting in the Andaman Sea in a non-seaworthy vessel.

“UNHCR had earlier received reports of some 200 Rohingya refugees being stranded on a boat off the coast of Thailand, needing urgent help. Reports suggested the boat was adrift since 1 December, after its engines broke down,” said the statement.

Those on board have been without food and water for days and are severely dehydrated, it added.

However, Nay San Lwin, coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition, a global network of Rohingya supporters and friends, accused the UN of taking too long to respond and blamed Myanmar Navy for the boat’s capture.

Nevertheless, Lwin’s claim that the boat was captured by the Myanmar Navy cannot be independently verified.

“The boat floated for several days. The Myanmar Navy has captured it. The Thai Navy arrived at the location where the boat was floating. They didn’t save them,” he claimed.

He added that the victims, whom he referred to as “154,” are now in the hands of a “cruel criminal regime.”

“They’ll be locked up. We are deeply concerned about the fate of 154 Rohingya,” he said, urging UN agencies and local authorities to act to save human lives.

According to a UN report, 2,413 Rohingya refugees took perilous sea routes from Bangladesh’s refugee camps to a third country in 2020, and at least 218 died or went missing during the journey.

In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status.

“We appeal to all authorities in the region to fully deploy their rescue capacities and promptly facilitate disembarkation for this group to a place of safety. The priority must now be to save lives and avoid even greater tragedy,” the UNHCR statement said.

UNHCR and humanitarian partners observed a dramatic surge in people attempting perilous crossings of the Andaman Sea, it said, adding that the agency continues to call for improved regional and international cooperation and coordination to save lives.

Ansar Ali, a refugee in Cox’s Bazar, told Anadolu Agency that in the last two months, 3,000 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh’s refugee camps embarked on a perilous sea voyage to Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.

“I know many of them who have recently crossed the Bay of Bengal, including two of the refugees who have been drifting in the Andaman Sea. Of the two drifting on the sea, a 17-year-old girl and a 27-year-old man were living in Cox’s Bazar’s refugee camps 3 and 4,” he explained.

Bangladesh is providing shelter to 1.2 million Rohingya refugees on its southeast coast of Cox’s Bazar since a refugee influx in 2017 in the face of a Myanmar military crackdown.

“Several people who were stranded at sea died as a result of adverse conditions and a lack of food. The engines of the carrying boat ran out of gear, exacerbating the situation,” Ali said, citing sources in Cox’s Bazar, Thailand, and Malaysia. (Anadolu)

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