Urgent Action Needed to Save Rohingya Adrift at Sea

Please see below statement from Refugees International Deputy Director for Africa, Asia, and the Middle East Daniel P. Sullivan: 

“An alarming number of Rohingya refugees have been marooned at sea in recent weeks. Urgent action is needed to address the drivers behind these dangerous voyages and to save those still adrift.

This month, at least three boats, each carrying more than 100 Rohingya from Myanmar or the refugee camps in Bangladesh, have spent weeks abandoned at sea. At least one boat remains at adrift. Yet regional governments have been slow to respond, and, even when saved, the refugees have been faced with detention or return to the genocidal regime that caused them to flee their homeland in the first place.

The recent surge of dangerous sea voyages evokes memories of the May 2015 Andaman Sea crisis, during which some 3,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis were abandoned by human smugglers. That crisis resulted in several pledges and proposals that could have avoided the current crisis, including setting up a regional task force and trust fund for mixed movements of refugees and migrants and agreeing to predetermined safe disembarkation points. Yet, the current response has largely only repeated the past.

The drivers behind these desperate voyages must be addressed, both through enhanced coordinated global pressure on Myanmar’s military junta and through measures to empower Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh through improved protection and access to education and livelihood opportunities.

But the most immediate need is for regional governments, including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand to live up to their obligations to save those stranded at sea and to avoid moves like repatriation or detention that will only place vulnerable people in further danger.” 

Refugees International recently released a report covering the dire conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and recommending solutions. An earlier report following the May 2015 boat crisis highlighted the dangerous sea journeys and included recommendations for addressing them.

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact Refugees International’s Vice President for Strategic Outreach Sarah Sheffer at ssheffer@refugeesinternational.org.