Geneva, Switzerland, Jan 17 (EFE).- At least 348 members of the stateless Rohingya community died or disappeared in 2022 while trying to cross perilous sea routes in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the United Nations Refugees Agency said on Tuesday.
Around 3,500 Rohingya refugees embarked on the sea journeys last year, five times the figures recorded in 2021, the UNHCR reported, with numbers expected to grow this year.
UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo on Tuesday appealed for a “comprehensive regional response” to address the large increase in the number of deaths at sea during a press conference at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
According to Mantoo, the majority of those who made the sea crossings landed on the coasts of Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and almost 45% were women and children.
The situation worsened in November and December 2022, when four boats carrying more than 450 Rohingya landed on the coast of Aceh in Indonesia, a vessel carrying 100 people disembarked in Sri Lanka and another boat with 180 passengers is thought to have sunk.
The UN has also reported that several boats that set sail in December are currently stranded off the coasts of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Mantoo called on Southeast Asian nations to coordinate efforts to rescue and disembark people in distress and reminded the region’s governments that many of the refugees aboard the migrant vessels have been victims of trafficking, are unaccompanied minors and are survivors of sexual abuse and gender violence.
“The region and the international community need to support efforts to address the root causes of displacement in Myanmar,” Mantoo said. “Until these are resolved, refugees will continue to undertake dangerous journeys in search of safety.”EFE