Asia-Pacific

UN urges 'immediate rescue' of Rohingya refugees adrift at sea without food or water

File photo of Rohingya refugees arriving in Indonesia. Source: Getty

A boat carrying dozens of Rohingya, including women and children, has broken down at sea and at least eight people have died, a rights group and the UN refugee agency said.

The United Nations refugee agency called on Monday for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees adrift in their boat in the Andaman Sea without food or water. Many of the refugees are ill and suffering from extreme dehydration.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it did not know the exact location of the vessel and understood that some passengers had died. The boat had left southern Bangladesh about 10 days ago and experienced engine failure.

“Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy,” UNHCR said in a statement, offering to support governments by providing humanitarian help to those rescued.

A senior Indian coast guard official confirmed to Reuters that the boat has been tracked to an area off the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

At least eight people had died on the boat, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a group that monitors the Rohingya crisis.

Mr Lewa said Indian navy vessels that were close by had provided food and water to those on the boat. “But we still don’t know what they will do afterwards,” he added.

The United Nations refugee agency is calling for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees adrift in their boat in the Andaman Sea.
File photo. Rohingya refugees rest near a refugee camp after crossing the border illegally near Amtoli, Bangladesh 2017.
The New York Times

A spokesman for India’s navy did not provide details of the situation but said a statement would be issued later.

According to UNHCR, the boat set out from the Bangladesh coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, where about a million Rohingya live in dire conditions in sprawling refugee camps.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a deadly crackdown by security forces in Myanmar in 2017.

The United Nations refugee agency is calling for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees adrift in their boat in the Andaman Sea.
File photo of Rohingya refugees headed to the Bhasan Char island on navy vessels.
AP

Authorities in Bangladesh said on Monday they were unaware of any boats leaving the camps. “If we had such information, we would have stopped them,” said Rafiqul Islam, an additional police superintendent in Cox’s Bazar.

Amnesty International said in a statement that too many lives had already been lost from countries refusing to assist Rohingya people at sea.

“Another repeat of those shameful incidents must be avoided here,” said Amnesty South Asia campaigner Saad Hammadi.

“After years of limbo in Bangladesh and following the recent coup in Myanmar, Rohingya people feel they have no option but to undertake these perilous journeys,” he added.

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