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Dozens missing after Rohingya refugee boat capsizes

August 15, 2021

Rescuers in Bangladesh were searching for survivors after a boat carrying over 40 refugees capsized in the Bay of Bengal. The Rohingya were trying to escape the Bhashan Char island camp.

Refugees being taken to Bhashan Char in December 2020.
The Bangladeshi government has been moving refugees to Bhashan Char since December 2020Image: Suvra Kanti Das/ZUMA Wire/picture alliance

A boat carrying Rohingya refugees capsized in the Bay of Bengal on Saturday, with at least 27 people still missing. The group was trying to escape the Bhashan Char island refugee camp, which has been criticized by human rights activists. 

The boat with 41 people on board got into the accident due to rough weather. Fourteen have been rescued, as the search for the rest continues.

A map of Bangladesh with the island of Bhashan Char marked
The refugee can is located on an island

"Navy ships and a helicopter have also joined the search," Sushil Kumar Chanda, an administrator for the refugee camp told AFP news agency

Chanda also said a man saved his two-year-old child by holding him above the water while swimming to safety. 

Saad Hammadi, South Asia campaigner for Amnesty International said on Twitter, "We have been urging the authorities to ensure that any relocation to the island is voluntary, transparent and guarantees the right to freedom of movement."

Refugees protest conditions in Bhashan Char

Bangladeshi authorities relocated refugees to Bhashan Char saying refugee camps in the mainland were getting too crowded. It currently houses 20,000 refugees, with plans to send more people into the settlement.

However, thousands of them protested the living conditions on the island in June this year. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it "remains concerned about reports of refugees being arrested and detained for attempting to leave Bhashan Char," after the capsizing incident. 

tg/dj (dpa, AFP)

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