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Asia

Deadliest year for Rohingya at sea in years as 180 presumed drowned

The number of Rohingya leaving Bangladesh in boats this year has jumped more than five fold this year from a year earlier, rights groups estimate.

Baloch said it was not clear where exactly the boat with 180 aboard went missing, nor whether the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Southeast Asia, a favoured destination for the Rohingya, was leading to the rush of people.

Sayedur Rahman, 38, who fled to Malaysia in 2012 from Myanmar, said his wife, two sons aged 17 and 13, and a daughter aged 12 were among the missing.

“In 2017, my family came to Bangladesh to save their lives,” Rahman said, referring to that year’s exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar.

“But they are now all gone … Now I’m devastated,” Rahman said. “We Rohingya are left to die … on the land, at sea. Everywhere.”

Earlier this month, two Myanmar Rohingya activist groups said that up to 20 people died of hunger or thirst on what the UNHCR said was a separate boat that was stranded at sea for two weeks off India’s coast. The boat, with at least 100 people on board, was said to be in Malaysian waters.

Amid the feared fatalities, some boats have made land or been rescued at sea.

On Monday the International Organisation for Migration said in a statement that 57 Rohingya males disembarked in Indonesia’s Aceh Besar district early on Dec 25 with the support of local community members. It said the male-only boat is believed to have set off from Bangladesh and spent nearly a month drifting at sea.

Indonesian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two boats carrying a total of 230 Rohingya refugees, including women and children, landed on the shores of Indonesia’s Aceh province in November, while this month, Sri Lanka’s navy rescued 104 Rohingya adrift off the Indian Ocean island’s northern coast.

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