UN issues call to rescue Rohingyas adrift at sea

Rohingya refugees

BANGKOK: The United Nations (UN) called Saturday for nations to rescue hundreds of Rohingya it said were trapped onboard two unseaworthy vessels adrift in the Andaman Sea, AFP reported.

Thousands of the Rohingya, most of them Muslim, heavily persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, risk their lives each year in long, expensive sea journeys, often in boats in poor condition trying to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

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The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Saturday called on nearby countries “to swiftly deploy their full search and rescue capacities in response to reported vessels in distress with hundreds of Rohingya at risk of perishing”.

The two overcrowded boats carrying about 400 passengers had experienced engine failures, and people were now “drifting in unseaworthy vessels in the Andaman Sea”, the agency said, citing “various sources”.

Food and water may be running out, it said, adding “there is a significant risk of fatalities in the coming days if people are not rescued and disembarked to safety”.

The vessels’ precise location is unknown and it is unclear when, or exactly from where, they departed.

The UNHCR’s call comes during a spike in journeys to Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh — a voyage of about 1,800 kilometres — with more than 1,000 arrivals in the biggest such wave since the 2017 crackdown.

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