Malaysia-bound Ro­hingya res­cued from sea

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

BANGLADESH’S coast guard res­cued 33 Ro­hingya and de­tained six al­leged hu­man traf­fick­ers from a fish­ing trawler headed for Malaysia in the Bay of Ben­gal, an of­fi­cial said on Wed­nes­day.

The res­cued in­cluded 14 men, 10 women and nine chil­dren who had been liv­ing in refugee camps in the south­east­ern Bangladesh dis­trict of Cox’s Bazar, ac­cord­ing to Fayezul Is­lam Mon­dol, coast guard com­man­der in the south­east­ern coastal town of Tek­naf.

“We cap­tured six traf­fick­ers as well. All of them are Bangladeshis,” he said.

Some 720,000 refugees of the per­se­cuted Myan­mar mi­nor­ity have taken shel­ter in Bangladesh camps since Au­gust last year. They fled what the UN has de­scribed as eth­nic cleans­ing in Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar’s west­ern Rakhine state, and have joined some 300,000 refugees al­ready liv­ing in camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Peo­ple smug­glers in re­cent years have sent tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya from the Bangladesh camps to Malaysia, be­fore Bangladesh launched a crack­down in 2015 af­ter Thai au­thor­i­ties dis­cov­ered mass graves and boats over­crowded with thou­sands of mi­grants drifted at sea.

Mon­dol said the Ro­hingya res­cued on Wed­nes­day had boarded a di­lap­i­dated fish­ing trawler on an un­cer­tain “sea voy- age to Malaysia”. The boat was in­ter­cepted on Wed­nes­day evening by a coast guard boat near Saint Martin’s Is­land, the last ter­ri­tory of Bangladesh, only a few kilo­me­tres away from Myan­mar’s Anauk My­inhlut coast­line.

One of the ar­rested traf­fick­ers, Ab­dus Shukur, 55, told me­dia that the fish­ing trawler had been due to trans­fer the Ro­hingya to a big­ger Malaysia-bound ship moored neared the is­land in the Bay of Ben­gal.

“We were forced by an in­flu­en­tial lo­cal to take these [Ro­hingya] peo­ple on the fish­ing boat. We were in­structed to board them on an await­ing ship near Saint Martin’s,” Shukur said.

Au­thor­i­ties in Bangladesh worry many refugees may once again risk trav­el­ling to South East Asia by boat, a route pre­vi­ously pop­u­lar among Ro­hingya seek­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties out­side the grim and crowded camps.

Most voy­ages take place be­tween Novem­ber and March when seas are most calm.

A lo­cal govern­ment of­fi­cial said with the ap­proach of win­ter, traf­fick­ers were now try­ing to lure Ro­hingya again to the dan­ger­ous boat jour­neys.

“The sea is get­ting calm and there are high de­mand among the refugees to travel to Malaysia,” Tek­naf mayor Ab­dul­lah Monir said.


At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions was fired on Wed­nes­day.

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