Published: Thu, February 13, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

At least 15 refugees drown after Malaysia-bound boat sinks off Bangladesh

At least 15 refugees drown after Malaysia-bound boat sinks off Bangladesh

At least 15 Rohingya refugees have died and dozens more are unaccounted for after their overcrowded wooden boat heading for Malaysia sank off the coast of southern Bangladesh, officials have said. Among the dead were women and children.

According to the official, 67 have so far been rescued alive and 40 others still remain missing.

A boat packed with Rohingya refugees capsized in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday.

About 740,000 Rohingya from Rakhine state fled their homes beginning in August 2017 after Myanmar's military launched a brutal offensive in response to deadly attacks by a rebel group on government security posts.

With little prospect for their return to Myanmar, numerous refugees are said to be turning to traffickers to escape the harsh conditions in their camps.

Some 130 individuals - generally children and women - were loaded on the fishing trawler that was attempting to make clear the Bay of Bengal to Malaysia, coastguard spokesperson Hamidul Islam informed the AFP news company on Tuesday. Bangladesh's security services have intercepted at least 500 Rohingya refugees from its shores since a year ago as refugee camps become increasingly run-down and overcrowded.

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At least seven suspected traffickers were shot dead in 2019 in clashes with police. Hundreds drowned as overloaded boats sank.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal to send back some Rohingya to their homeland, but none have agreed to return because of safety fears. The coastguard resumed the search operation for the second day on Wednesday and rescued another Rohingya man.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations refugee agency issued a joint statement saying they were ready to support the survivors of the boat.

The statement said irregular boat movements are not new to the Cox's Bazar district, as both Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis risk the unsafe journey to travel overseas due to compelling circumstances. "But I can not go to my destination now", she said.

As they do not see any light of hope for their repatriation to their homeland in Rakhine state, Myanmar with dignity, a large number of Rohingyas are either making desperate move to go overseas illegally or spread to different parts of the country.

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