At least 16 Rohingya refugees have died and dozens more are unaccounted for after their overcrowded boat heading for Malaysia sank off the coast of southern Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi officials said some 130 people, mainly women and children, were on the fishing boat when it struck coral. Four navy and coastguard boats were searching the seas near St Martin’s island. Seventy people had so far been rescued.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations’ refugee agency expressed their support in a statement: “UNHCR and IOM are saddened by this tragic loss of life and, together with our other UN and NGO partners, are standing by to offer assistance to the government in responding to the needs of the survivors, be it food, shelter, or medical aid”.
“The Rohingya refugee crisis has claimed yet more innocent victims today”, said the humanitarian organization Save the Children. It called the drownings “a wakeup call” and urged Myanmar to “ensure the Rohingya community can return to their homes in a safe and dignified manner”.
Recently, the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered Myanmar to stop its genocidal campaign against the Rohingyas. The country has for years rejected all claims that it has tried to exterminate the Rohingyas. In 2017 alone, some 740,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee into camps in Bangladesh.