UN urges rescue of refugees adrift in Andaman Sea

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ANI Photo | UN urges rescue of refugees adrift in Andaman Sea

The United Nations on Friday urged South Asian countries to rescue around 190 desperate people, who are on the verge of perishing at sea, adrift somewhere between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
“About 190 people are on the verge of perishing at sea, adrift somewhere between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal. They are at risk without adequate food and water if they are not urgently rescued and disembarked. Saving lives must be a priority,” tweeted, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR Asia-Pacific.
Reports indicate that they have been at sea in dire conditions for a month, lacking sufficient food or water, and with no efforts from any States in the region to help.
Many are women and children, with reports of up to 20 people dying on the unseaworthy vessel during the journey, reported UN News.
“We need to see the States in the region help save lives and not let people die,” said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Director for Asia and the Pacific.
However, the pleas continue to be ignored. “This shocking ordeal and tragedy must not continue. These are human beings – men, women and children,” added Ratwatte.
Since the first reports of the boat being sighted in Thai waters, the United Nations High Commission or Refugees (UNHCR) has received unverified information of the vessel being spotted near Indonesia and then subsequently off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, reported UN News.
Its current location is reportedly eastwards, in the Andaman sea north of Aceh.
The UNHCR has repeatedly asked all countries in the region to make saving lives a priority and requested the Indian marine rescue centre earlier this week to allow for disembarkations.
“It is devastating to learn that many people have already lost their lives, including children”, added Ratwatte.

It is very difficult for UNHCR to verify the information, but if true, the number of dead and missing in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea will be recorded as nearly 200 this year alone. The shocking number represents around 10 per cent of the estimated 2,000 people who have taken risky sea journeys in the region since January, reported UN News.
“Sadly, this makes it one of the deadliest years in the seas in the region,” said the UNHCR director.
On Thursday, the UN-appointed independent human rights expert, Tom Andrews, issued a statement urging governments to “immediately and urgently coordinate search and rescue for this boat and ensure safe disembarkation of those aboard before any further loss of life occurs”.
“While many in the world are preparing to enjoy a holiday season and ring in a new year, boats bearing desperate Rohingya men, women and young children, are setting off on perilous journeys in unseaworthy vessels”, said the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar.
In his plea to all regional governments for “a more humane regional response” to those fleeing the junta’s brutal violence, including the Rohingya, Andrews called for “an absolute moratorium on any deportations or pushbacks to Myanmar” as well as harmonised search and rescues at sea.
This is just the latest in a series of dangerous voyages, said the UN expert.
Two weeks ago, a Vietnamese oil company vessel on its way to Myanmar rescued one sinking boat with 154 Rohingya refugees aboard, reported UN News.
“As they were close to Myanmar waters, they reportedly handed the group over to Myanmar authorities,” he said.
“It has been reported that those aboard were placed in migration detention in Myanmar and may now face criminal charges,” he added.
Last weekend, the Sri Lankan Navy rescued the third trawler in distress, carrying 104 Rohingya, including numerous children, some unaccompanied.
“The international community must step forward and assist regional actors in providing durable solutions for the Rohingya,” reported Andrews. (ANI)

This report is filed by ANI news service. TheNewsMill holds no responsibility for this content.

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