Influx of people taking risks to cross Andaman sea: UN

UNHCR reported that more than 1,900 people have already made the journey since January – six times more than in 2020.


In this May 14, 2015 photo, Rohingya refugees collect food supplies dropped from Thai army helicopter after they jumped from a boat drifting in Thai waters off Koh Lipe in Andaman Sea. Representational image: AFP

December 5, 2022

DHAKA – The UN has issued an alert over the dramatic increase in the number of people trying to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh and Myanmar, amid escalation of violence in the Southeast Asian nation.

UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on Friday, said more than 1,900 people have already made the journey since January — six times more than in 2020.

“Tragically, 119 people have been reported dead or missing on these journeys, this year alone,” said UNHCR Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo in a statement.

Mantoo said more than a million Rohingyas now live in Bangladesh and not a single of them returned to Rakhine State, adding conditions in the refugee camps weren’t safe and conducive yet.

Meanwhile, the situation in Myanmar has deteriorated since the military takeover in February last year and more so recently in Rakhine State where the Arakan Army and Myanmar military are fighting each other.

In an appeal for help from governments in the region, UNHCR said that the most recent arrivals included over 200 people in North Aceh, Indonesia, where the authorities allowed them to disembark and provided shelter.

UNHCR has also received unverified reports of more boats with desperate individuals, adrift at sea.

With increasing levels of desperation and vulnerability forcing more refugees to make these deadly journeys, UNHCR and humanitarian partners have emphasised on increased regional and international cooperation to save lives and share responsibility.

Indonesia currently hosts nearly 13,000 refugees and asylum-seekers mostly from Afghanistan, Somalia and Myanmar. They shouldn’t be alone in rescuing and disembarking people adrift at sea, Manto added.

“It is imperative that states in the region uphold their commitments made in 2005 under the Bali Process to collectively find solutions for these desperate journeys,” he further said.

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