Weeks after their boat stranded off the Indian coast, many Rohingya are feared dead at sea; at least 160 people are still aboard and on the brink of starvation, according to family members and the UN agency for refugees. Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, whose sister and 5-year-old niece are on the vessel, told CNN on Wednesday that two children and a woman had died, and those who were still alive had “no water, food, or medicine.”
“We are extremely concerned and want them to be rescued. It’s growing increasingly difficult for them to survive,” said Khan, adding that he last spoke to the boat’s captain on Sunday.
The boat, which is currently in the Bay of Bengal close to the Indian region of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has apparently been lost since its engine failed in late November. It is believed to have been travelling to Malaysia from Bangladesh, where a million or so Rohingya Muslims who are a stateless minority and fled violence in their native Myanmar now reside in refugee camps.
UNHCR spokesperson for Asia Babar Baloch pleaded with both Sri Lanka and India to assist in the rescue of people on board.
“Quick action is needed to save lives and avoid further deaths,” Baloch said. “We repeat our warning that inaction from states to save lives is resulting in more human misery and tragedies with each passing day.”
According to a statement from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, a group of Southeast Asian politicians has also pleaded with nearby nations to “urgently rescue” the boat.
A boat carrying 104 Rohingya immigrants was saved by the Sri Lankan Navy a few days prior to the appeal.
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