02/11/2020, 09.29
BANGLADESH
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Rohingya overloaded boat sinks: 14 dead and over 40 missing

The rescue teams rescued 70 people. The fishing vessel the were onboard traveled with a boat of which there are no traces. The victims were fleeing the overcrowded camps of Cox’s Bazar. Border guard commander: "The Rohingya lured by traffickers". Since last year, authorities have stopped the departure of over 500 refugees.

 

Cox’s Bazar (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 14 people drowned this morning and more than 40 are missing following the sinking of a boat carrying Rohingya refugees off the southern coast of Bangladesh. About 130 people were massed on the fishing boat, which tried to cross the Gulf of Bengal to Malaysia. This was reported by the spokesman for the Bangladeshi coast guard, Hamidul Islam. So far, rescue teams have pulled 70 people to safety.

In 2017, following clashes between the Burmese army and Rohingya armed groups, over 700 thousand Rohingya fled Myanmar to refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Many attempt, often unsuccessfully, to abandon the overcrowded reception facilities in the Cox’s Bazar district on board makeshift boats. Due to the humanitarian crisis, the routes of the boats to Southeast Asian countries with Islamic majority have reopened: Indonesia and especially Malaysia, a country that hosts one of the largest Rohingya communities (about 150 thousand people).

The boat that sunk this morning was one of two boats that were making the dangerous journey. “We found an upturned boat - says the coastguard spokesman -. The people on board came mainly from the refugee camps of Cox's Bazar. We have not found any trace of the second boat yet. We will continue our operation."

Commander Naim ul Haq adds: "So far we have recovered 14 bodies and 70 people alive." He explains that naval and coastguard ships are continuing their search near the island of St Martin. Border guard commander Faisal Hasan Khan says: "[Refugees] had been lured by traffickers."

Since last year, Bangladeshi authorities have stopped over 500 Rohingya before they came on boats. In 2019, police killed at least seven suspected traffickers in armed clashes. The trafficking increases during the period November-March, when the sea is safer for small fishing boats. Since 2015, when Thai authorities have dismantled the regional networks of human traffickers, Rohingyas have rarely attempted to sail the southern sea routes. Following the Bangkok crackdown, thousands of Rohingya had landed in Indonesia and Malaysia after being stranded in the Andaman Sea. That year, 25,000 are estimated to have left Bangladesh and Myanmar on boats, trying to reach Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Hundreds have drowned.

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