180 Rohingya Muslims on a boat have gone missing at sea in an attempt to escape the dire conditions of refugee camps in Bangladesh.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that Rohingya Muslims, who started their journey from Bangladesh by boat in late November, remain unaccounted for. They are lost at sea and there is a strong possibility that all 180 people on board have perished.
The UNHCR said the boat was unfit to travel on and there were reports of malfunctions in early December. Later contact with him was also lost. He said that this incident of death of Rohingya refugees in the year 2022 is the biggest among the worst incidents that have happened to them in recent years.
Babar Baloch, the spokesperson of UNHCR, said that this year already around 200 Rohingyas have been killed or missing. “We hope that the 180 missing Rohingya are safe, but that is very unlikely.”
Worst event since 2013 and 2014
According to UNHCR estimates, about 900 Rohingya went missing or died in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal in 2013 and over 700 in 2014. Baloch said, “The current year is the worst year since the killings and disappearances in 2013 and 2014.” They added that people’s attempts to escape have once again reached the pre-Covid-19 situation.
He said, “Trends show that escape attempts are similar to 2020 when more than 2,400 people tried to cross the dangerous sea and more than 200 people died or went missing.
A fivefold increase
Human rights organizations say the number of Rohingyas trying to leave Bangladesh by boat has increased fivefold this year compared to last year. Baloch said that it is not yet clear where the boat with 180 people went missing and which country it was heading towards.
38-year-old Saeedul Rahman, who fled from Myanmar to Malaysia in 2012, said his wife, two sons aged 17 and 13 and a daughter aged 12 are among the missing.
He said, “My family came to Bangladesh in 2017 to save their lives, but for so many years, their lives have become torture. Rohingyas have been left to die, either at sea or on land. Any place.”
As a result of military operations against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, millions of people were forced to leave their homes and flee to other countries for refuge. Currently, more than one million Rohingya refugees are living in various camps in Bangladesh. The condition of these camps is said to be very bad. Buddhist-majority Myanmar refuses to grant citizenship to most Rohingyas, calling them illegal immigrants from South Asia.
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