Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, February 2020
16 Rohingya Muslims Drowned After an Overcrowded Refugee Boat Sinks Off Coast of Bangladesh
February 12, 2020
The New Arab & agencies, 11 February, 2020
The death toll of a capsized refugee boat carrying about 125 Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps has risen to at least 16, officials have said. The boat sank early on Tuesday in the Bay of Bengal, according to officials.
The coast guard, navy divers and other rescuers recovered the bodies of 14 women, one child and a man after the wooden boat capsized off St. Martin's Island, the top elected official on the island told The Associated Press.
Noor Ahmed told AP by phone from the scene that some 62 refugees on the boat survived. They were wooed by traffickers to get on the boat from various points as it was heading for Malaysia, he said.
Iqbal Hossain, additional police superintendent in Cox's Bazar, said by phone the overcrowding of the boat had caused it to capsize and that it may have been carrying additional cargo as well.
Hossain said the bodies were sent to nearby Shah Porir island and the rescue operation was continuing. However, he would not give an exact figure for the number of those still missing.
Traffickers usually lure refugees by promising a better life overseas. Many past attempts to travel illegally by boats were thwarted by coast guards.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh from neighbouring Myanmar to flee a harsh crackdown by Myanmar's military since August 2017. Myanmar has long claimed the Rohingya are “Bengali” migrants from Bangladesh, even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless.
At Least 15 Rohingya Muslims Killed as Boat Sinks Off Coast of Bangladesh
By Hai Do
VOA, February 11, 2020
At least 15 people drowned Tuesday after an overcrowded boat carrying Rohingya Muslim refugees capsized and sank off the coast of Bangladesh .
Commander Sohel Rana of the coast guard station on St. Martin's Island, Bangladesh, said the wooden boat was setting sail for Malaysia when it hit a coral reef in shallow water. It was packed with refugees from camps around Cox's Bazar.
Fishermen alerted the coast guard, which found the vessel sinking with survivors swimming and crying for help. Navy divers joined the coast guard for the rescue operation. By nightfall, rescuers had saved 73 people and recovered 15 bodies. Among the dead were women and children.
Coast guard spokesman Hamidul Islam said the chance of finding survivors is slim, but " But added, "we are continuing the search and rescue operations."
Rohingya refugees wait after their boat capsized, in Teknaf, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Feb. 11, 2020.
Jamila Bibi from the Kutupalong Refugee Camp is one of the survivors. She said her husband was in Malaysia. "I was going to him. But I cannot go to my destination now," she said.
A Rohingya teenager who declined to reveal his name said, "I can't eat properly at camp. Can't move freely. I thought, 'If I go to Malaysia, maybe I can live a better life.' So I wanted to go to Malaysia by boat."
More than 730,000 Rohingya left Myanmar after a military-led campaign against them in 2017. They were forced to live in crowded, dirty camps across the border in Bangladesh. But several attempts to repatriate Rohingya Muslims back to Buddhist-majority Myanmar have been met with resistance.
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR says Malaysia had nearly 100,000 Rohingya refugees by the end of 2019, the second largest number after Bangladesh.
Many of the refugees in Cox's Bazar have since tried to make the hazardous sea journey to Malaysia. Last November, Bangladesh's coast guard rescued 122 Rohingya refugees when a vessel they had boarded to Malaysia started sinking because of a mechanical problem.
Following news reports of the drownings, Save the Children said in a statement, "The Rohingya refugee crisis has claimed yet more innocent victims today." The humanitarian organization called the drownings "a wakeup call" and urged Myanmar to "ensure the Rohingya community can return to their homes in a safe and dignified manner."
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