Rise in fatal crossings reflects Rohingya desperation    UN News

Rise in fatal crossings reflects Rohingya desperation UN News

The sharp rise in the number of Rohingya refugees who have risked their lives to cross the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal over the past year reflects their growing desperation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

In 2022, more than 3,500 Rohingya attempted fatal crossings on 39 boats, mostly from Myanmar and Bangladesh, UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva.

“This represents a 360% increase from last year when about 700 people made these trips,” he said.

The UN agency’s latest warning of the situation comes amid the ongoing military crackdown on Myanmar by the generals who seized power two years ago and the continued lack of a comprehensive regional response among South Asia’s coastal states to protect the lives of refugees at sea and prevent their exploitation by people smugglers.

Ships drift around for weeks

“UNHCR’s appeals to the region’s maritime authorities to rescue those in distress and disembark have been ignored or unheeded as many boats remain adrift for weeks,” Mantoo said, adding: Without concrete commitments to regional cooperation, more people will die at sea.

UNHCR’s latest data on the number of deaths on these dangerous voyages shows that at least 348 people died or disappeared at sea in 2022, making it one of the deadliest years since 2014.

The agency noted that 3,040 people who made the sea voyage landed in 2022, mostly in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bangladesh. Almost 45% were women and children.

Stranded Rohingya sit on the deck of an abandoned smuggler ship floating in the Andaman Sea in 2015.

UNHCR/Christophe Archambault

Lured by false promises and hopes

In the last two months of 2022, four boats carrying more than 450 Rohingya landed in Aceh, Indonesia. A ship carrying more than 100 refugees has landed in Sri Lanka. Another ship is feared to have sunk in early December with around 180 people on board, UNHCR reported, while several ships that put to sea in December “remained at sea at the end of the year”.

Mantoo stressed the vulnerability of the ethnic Rohingya who made the sea journey and the 700,000 who fled en masse from Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape military persecution in 2017. “We’re hearing reports… of this growing sense of despair and anxiety about the future and really your hope for safety and security. Some of them want to meet up with family membersFor others, their vulnerabilities are exploited by human traffickers or smugglers who lure with false promises and hopes.”

Call for a regional answer

In a call for solidarity among nations affected by the Rohingya plight, the UNHCR official said regional ministers will meet next month as part of the Bali process to discuss how drug trafficking, human trafficking and related cross-border crime can be combated.

“The movements we are talking about today are Rohingya refugees, refugees in need of international protection,” stressed Mantoo.

They shouldn’t be deported, they should get protection and helptherefore we urge States to ensure they comply with their international legal obligations when it comes to disembarking them, rescuing them at sea, disembarking them and then ensuring they are protected and not in situations brought back where they live could be in danger,” he explained.

Mantoo reiterated his call for more countries to share the “humanitarian responsibility” for the emergency in more predictable, equitable and sustainable ways, noting that the majority of refugees are still housed in Bangladesh.

“The people of Bangladesh, the local communities and the government You have welcomed them generously and given them protection and help, but they need more support to ensure they can get help during their displacement,” he said.