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UN urges rescue of Rohingya refugees adrift at sea

The group fled Bangladesh, where a million Rohingya live in squalid camps [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 February, 2021

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The UNHCR and Amnesty International are urging regional authorities to rescue the Rohingya refugees.
The UN refugee agency has called for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees stranded at sea without food or water.

The boat departed southern Bangladesh about 10 days ago but experienced engine failure, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said on Monday.

The group of Rohingya refugees had left from Cox's Bazaar, the coastal Bangladeshi district home to around a million Rohingya living in dire conditions, the UNHCR said.

Relatively affluent, Muslim-majority Malaysia is the main destination for Rohingya fleeing misery in Bangladeshi refugee camps. 

An Indian coastguard official told Reuters the vessel is now stranded in the Andaman Sea, which stretches between the Indian Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Myanmar, and Thailand on the southeast Asian mainland.

Indian Navy vessels have now provided food and water to those left on the boat but at least eight people have died, said Chris Lewa.

Lewa heads the Arakan Project monitoring the Rohingya refugee crisis.

It is unclear what will happen next, Lewa told Reuters.

Too many Rohingya refugees have been left to perish at sea by countries which refuse to take them in, Amnesty International said on Monday, urging an immediate rescue.
Read more: What Myanmar's coup means for the future of Rohingya Muslims


"Another repeat of those shameful incidents must be avoided here," said the group's 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," Hammadi said.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar in recent years amid a violent crackdown on the Muslim minority.

The Muslim ethnic minority group is denied citizenship by Myanmar, which claims they are illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

UN officials and human rights groups have described the persecution of the Rohingya by Burmese forces as ethnic cleansing.

This month's coup by the Burmese military has prompted renewed fears for the Rohingya. 

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