India in talks with Bangladesh for return of Rohingyas stranded at sea

New Delhi, Feb 25 (efe-epa).- India is in talks with Bangladesh for the return of Rohingya refugees who have been adrift on a boat, without food or water, in the Andaman Sea for several days, the foreign ministry said on Thursday.

The boat carrying 64 women and 24 men, including 13 minors, left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh two weeks ago and has been stranded at sea since Feb. 15 due to engine failure.

“We are in discussions with the government of Bangladesh to ensure their safe and secure repatriation,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava at a press conference.

“Due to severe conditions, we understand that eight occupants have died and one of the occupants has been missing since the 15th of February,” the spokesperson said.

Srivastava added that upon learning of the situation of the stranded Rohingyas, India “immediately dispatched two coastguard ships to provide food, water and medical assistance to the occupants.”

“Seven of them were also administered IV fluids,” he further said.

The ministry revealed that some 47 refugees have identification cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangladesh stating that they were “displaced Myanmar nationals and persons of concern”.

This situation is reminiscent of the refugee crisis of 2015, when thousands of Rohingyas were adrift on ships for weeks after the authorities in Thailand and Malaysia dismantled the networks that trafficked or smuggled them to these countries from Myanmar, where they are persecuted.

After the dismantling of the network smuggling people, the transit of such boats has declined significantly, although last year Indonesia rescued several straded vessels carrying Rohingyas from refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The coastguards of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia had initially stopped these vessels from landing on their respective coasts, but a group of fishermen from Aceh rescued several boats, against the orders of the Indonesian navy, before the authorities agreed to allow the refugees to disembark.

Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees fled Bangladesh following a wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar by the army since August 2017, which the UN described as ethnic cleansing and genocide. EFE-EPA


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