On Monday, the United Nations refugee agency called for the urgent rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees, many of them sick and suffering from severe dehydration, in their boat in the Andaman Sea without food or water.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was unaware of the vessel’s exact location and understood that some passengers had died. Approximately 10 days ago, the boat had left southern Bangladesh and suffered engine failure, it said.
“Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy,” UNHCR said in a statement promising to assist governments by providing humanitarian relief to those rescued.
A senior official from the Indian coast guard confirmed to Reuters that the boat had been tracked off the islands of Andaman and Nicobar.
According to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a group monitoring the Rohingya crisis, at least eight people died on the ship.
Lewa said Indian navy vessels close by had provided those on the boat with food and water. “But we still don’t know what they will do afterwards,” he added.
An Indian navy spokesman did not provide specifics of the situation, but said a declaration would be released later.
According to the UNHCR, the ship set sail from the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, where approximately a million Rohingya are living in desperate conditions in sprawling refugee camps.
After a deadly crackdown by security forces in Myanmar in 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya citizens fled to Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi authorities said on Monday that they were unaware of any boats leaving the camps. “If we had such information, we would have stopped them,” Rafiqul Islam, an additional police superintendent in Cox’s Bazar, said.