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UN requests Bangladesh to let in 2 boats carrying 500 Rohingyas

  • Published at 11:17 pm April 25th, 2020
File photo: Rohingya refugees who were rescued by Bangladesh Coast Guard in Teknaf upazila of Cox's Bazar on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 Dhaka Tribune

No more Rohingyas will be allowed in, the foreign minister said on Wednesday

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has requested the Bangladesh government to allow two boats carrying around 500 Rohingyas in the Bay of Bengal to anchor in port.

These two boats have been trying to reach the shores of Bangladesh from the international waters since Monday. Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Coast Guard are not allowing them into the country.

“I am writing to request your urgent assistance to ensure a safe haven is found in a timely manner for hundreds of refugees and migrants currently stranded at sea,” High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a letter to Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.

“This is a human tragedy of terrible proportions. In a spirit of solidarity and at the beginning of the Holy Month of Ramadan, I appeal to you in the strongest terms to open your ports and allow the boats to land,” reads the April 24 letter, a copy of which has been obtained by Dhaka Tribune.

“Bangladesh has a proud record of extending hospitality to Rohingya refugees and I urge you to continue to provide rescue and sanctuary until durable solutions can be found,” it says.

“I will also be encouraging other governments of the region to take similar action,” the letter further says. 

Dr Momen could not be reached for a comment on the request made by the UN high commissioner for human rights.

However, earlier on Wednesday, he told Dhaka Tribune: “Our navy and coast guard are on alert and they have been instructed not to allow these boats to enter Bangladesh. And they are doing so. No more Rohingyas will be allowed in.”

The UN human rights chief said in her letter: “A few days ago, my office was alerted to the situation of some 400 Rohingyas, who disembarked in Cox’s Bazar, dehydrated, malnourished and in need of immediate medical attention after having spent nearly two months at sea in search of safety and dignity. Many of those on board the vessel were women and children.

“We understand that more than 70 people may have lost their lives on that boat, some having starved to death and others had been beaten to death by unscrupulous smugglers. Bangladesh has given shelter to these Rohingya people, an action I commend,” she said.

“At the time, we warned of the probability that other vessels in similar circumstances were still at the sea, and I understand there are at least two more boats in desperate need of safe harbour in the Bay of Bengal,” said Bachelet in the letter.

“The reportedly more than 500 men, women and children abroad these boats have been at the sea for an extended period of time, and we understand that they require urgent rescue, food, medical care and other necessary humanitarian assistance,” she said.

Bachelet further said: “I take this opportunity to reiterate the fundamental principles of international law whereby all States should ensure that their responses to refugees and migrants in distress at sea are based on international human rights and refugee law, and that they should be permitted safe disembarkation in a timely manner. Dangerous interception practices and collective expulsions, including pushing back boats, must be scrupulously avoided.”

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