Bangladesh: at least 15 dead in the sinking of a Rohingya refugee boat
In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugees line up for blankets outside Kutupalong camp near Cox's Bazar, November 24, 2017 (illustration image). REUTERS / Susana Vera
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At least 15 people have drowned and dozens are missing in the sinking off Bangladesh of a boat carrying Rohingya refugees en route to Malaysia, local authorities said on Tuesday.
Some 130 refugees, mostly women and children, piled up on a fishing boat hired in the Bay of Bengal bound for Malaysia, a dangerous journey of 2,000 kilometers, said the Bangladeshi coast guard.
Seventy people have been rescued so far. Search operations are continuing near Saint Martin Island, located not far from the Bangladeshi coast, but an initial assessment reports at least 15 dead.
The barely 13-meter-long boat was one of two boats departing Monday evening from Cox's Bazar district in south-eastern Bangladesh, where Rohingya refugee camps host nearly a million people, including residents are theoretically prohibited from going out.
Many Rohingyas attempt to reach Malaysia
Many Burmese Rohingya, who have fled to Bangladesh because of violence against their Muslim minority, are trying to escape the misery and despair of the gigantic refugee camps by embarking for Malaysia, in the hope of a better life .
Over the past year, Bangladeshi security forces have arrested more than 500 Rohingyas in coastal villages and on boats as they prepare to leave for Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country in Southeast Asia and where there is already a large Rohingya diaspora. Local police also killed at least seven suspected traffickers in 2019 in clashes.
"An announced tragedy"
The shipwreck " was an announced tragedy. Rohingya refugees live in conditions of confinement in the camps. They are increasingly trying to leave the camps and become victims of human trafficking networks , ”said Shakirul Islam, a migration expert, interviewed by Agence France-presse. Traffic increases during the November-March period, after the monsoon, when the sea is safer to allow small fishing boats to undertake the risky journey for Malaysia.
►Read also: Burma: two years later, back on the key dates of the Rohingya crisis
It is estimated that 25,000 Rohingyas fled Bangladesh and Burma in 2015 trying to reach Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia by boat. Hundreds of them drowned.
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