14 dead after boat carrying Rohingya refugees sinks in Bay of Bengal

World Faizah Kamal 11-Feb-2020
Rohingya boat
ID 117746322 © Rokib Hasan | Dreamstime.com

Officials stated that during the early hours of February 11, at least 14 people drowned and dozens more were unaccounted for after a boat carrying Rohingya refugees sank in southern Bangladesh.

Some 130 people were packed on the fishing trawler that was attempting to get across the Bay of Bengal to Malaysia, coast guard spokesman Hamidul Islam told the news agency AFP. Seventy of them had so far been rescued.

Many of the 700,000-plus Rohingya, who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017, have tried to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on boats headed for Malaysia.

Hamidul Islam said the boat was one of two vessels that was making the hazardous journey.

“We have found one capsized boat. All of them were mainly from the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. We haven’t found any sign of the second boat yet. We will continue our operation,” Hamidul Islam said.

“So far we have recovered 14 bodies and 70 people alive,” coast guard commander Naim ul Haq told AFP, adding that navy and coast guard boats were searching near St. Martin’s island.

“They were lured by traffickers,” border guard commander Faisal Hasan Khan said.

Malaysia is the favoured destination of the Rohingya as it is a Muslim majority nation and has a sizeable Rohingya diaspora.

With few opportunities for jobs and education in the camps, thousands have attempted to reach other countries in Southeast Asia.

Since last year, Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies have picked up over 500 Rohingya from coastal villages as they waited to board boats.

At least seven suspected traffickers were shot dead in 2019 in clashes with police.

Trafficking often increases during the November-March period when the sea is safest for the small fishing trawlers used in the risky trips.