Close to 400 Rohingya Muslim refugees were rescued by Bangladesh's coast guard on Wednesday after spending almost two months aboard a large boat. They were traveling to Malaysia but couldn't reach their destination after the country increased coastal patrols due to coronavirus fears.
The refugees, mostly women and children, were detained by authorities after the vessel docked at the Baharchhara jetty, south of Cox's Bazar district.
"We have rescued at least 382 Rohingya from a big overcrowded fishing trawler and brought them to a beach near (the coastal town of) Teknaf. They were starving," said Lieutenant Shah Zia Rahman, a spokesman for Bangladesh's coast guard. "They were floating for 58 days. And over the last seven days it was moving in our territorial waters.
According to those rescued, "32 Rohingya died aboard the overcrowded trawler and their bodies were thrown in the sea," he added. Other sources put the number of people who perished at 28.
Bangladesh currently hosts close to a millionRohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in neighboring Myanmar. Following a crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state, close to 750,000 refugees crossed over to Bangladesh, where they live in squalid refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar district. Many attempt to journey to Malaysia or Thailand in the hope of finding employment.
In this case, reports say that the refugees made deals with traffickers and traveled to the ship on smaller boats.
The authorities delayed questioning the refugees over fears that they may be infected with the coronavirus.
see/se (AFP, dpa)