Unspecified number of Rohingyas on Andaman Sea for over a week with some already dead while others in distress
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Monday appealed to the maritime states along the Andaman Sea for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingyas refugees in distress.
The UN Refugee Agency received reports of an unconfirmed number of Rohingya refugees aboard a vessel in distress as of the evening of Saturday, according to a statement issued by Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.
The refugees report having departed from Cox's Bazar and Teknaf, Bangladesh, approximately ten days ago. Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration, it said.
"We understand that a number refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours," it added.
"Refugees have told us that the vessel ran out of food and water several days ago, and that many of the passengers are ill. The vessel has reportedly been adrift since the engine broke down, more than a week ago," the statement said.
"We have not been able to confirm the number of refugees or their precise location at this time," it said.
In the absence of precise information as to the refugees’ location, the UNHCR has alerted the authorities of the relevant maritime states of these reports and appealed for their swift assistance, should the vessel be found in their area of responsibility for search and rescue. Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy, stated the statement.
"As always, saving lives must be the priority. In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status," it said.
"We appeal to all governments to deploy their search and rescue capacities and promptly disembark those in distress," it added.
UNHCR expressed its readiness to support governments across the region in providing any necessary humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures in the coming days for those disembarked, in line with public health protocols.
The fact that refugees and migrants continue to undertake fatal journeys accentuates the need for immediate and collective regional response to search, rescue and disembarkation, concluded the statement.