Kolkata: Nearly 160 Rohingya refugees, who have escaped from camps in Bangladesh, are now believed adrift in the Andaman Sea as their boat’s engine broke down.
One of the refugees managed to contact the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI) and give the coordinates which showed the ship drifting southeast of the Andaman Islands towards Aceh in Indonesia.
“Since the contact was made on Wednesday, we have no news of where they have drifted… We have appealed to all agencies working with such sea-borne refugees to try and help these people,” RHRI Director Sabber Kyaw Min told PTI over the phone.
However, RHRI’s statement could not be independently verified by either the Indian Coast Guard or Unified Andamans & Nicobar Command.
The Command’s spokesperson said through WhatsApp: “We have no information.”
From the location given by RHRI, it appears that the Rohingya boat is outside Indian waters.
The refugees are mostly women and children, who number 120, and 40 adult men, said Min on Friday.
The Rohingya refugees have escaped from Kutupalong, the world’s largest refugee camp at Ukhiya in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar and Balukali, another densely populated refugee camp nearby.
“The refugees are in dire need of food, water and safety,” said Min.
Speaking to PTI over the phone, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, “There are some media reports but I am not aware of any such incident.”
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in a statement made prophetically last week, warned of the dangers associated with such crossings.
The agency said it “warns that attempts at these journeys are exposing people to grave risks and fatal consequences.”
Over 1,900 people, mostly Rohingyas, travelled by sea between January and November this year, compared to just 287 in 2021. The sea-borne refugees embarked from Myanmar and Bangladesh, according to UNHCR.
“Tragically, 119 people have been reported dead or missing on these journeys, this year alone,” the agency said. Most refugees headed for Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Rohingya refugees who have managed to make their way to Indonesia are mostly being kept at Lhokseumawe in Indonesia’s Aceh province.