The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), on Monday, called for immediate efforts to search and rescue a group of Rohingya refugees, who have been adrift on the Andaman Sea for over a week.The precise number and location of the refugees is unknown, and there are reports that many may have already lost their lives, Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, located in Bangkok, said in news release. The last information of distress was received on Saturday evening, local time.
The refugees are believed to have departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, southern Bangladesh, about ten days ago, and the vessel has reported been adrift after the engine broke down, more than a week ago, according to UNHCR.
Refugees have reported that the vessel has been out of food and water for several days now, and that many of the passengers are ill, it added.
“Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration. We understand that a number of refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours”, added Mr. Ratwatte.
The UNHCR official appealed to all governments in deploy their search and rescue capacities and promptly disembark those in distress, stressing that “as always, saving lives must be the priority”.
“In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status”, he urged.
UNHCR stands ready to support governments across the region in providing any necessary humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures in the coming days for those disembarked, in line with public health protocols, Mr. Ratwatte said.