MUMBAI (Reuters) – At least 100 ethnic Rohingya are trapped in a boat off India’s Andaman Islands and 16-20 may have died of thirst, hunger or drowning, two Myanmar Rohingya activist groups said.
Every year many Rohingya, members of a Muslim minority, risk their lives to escape violence in Myanmar and filth in Bangladesh refugee camps. Many try to reach Malaysia.
A source told Reuters that five Indian ships made contact with the stranded boat late on Tuesday.
An Indian Navy spokesperson said he had no details to share. A spokesman for the Coast Guard did not respond to a request for comment from Reuters.
Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, which works to support Myanmar’s Rohingya, said: “Our estimate is that maybe 20 people have died… some from hunger and thirst, and others jumped into the water in desperation.” . It’s absolutely appalling and disrespectful.”
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The Rohingya Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network said the group had been wandering for more than two weeks.
“We heard late last night that some Indian ships are coming towards the boat, so we are still waiting for an update,” said Lillian Fan, chair of the Rohingya Working Group of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.
“We are hopeful that Indian Navy or Coastguard will manage to rescue and land the boat as soon as possible. These people are wandering on a damaged boat for more than 2 weeks without food and water. We hear that there may be up to 16 people Can. Already dead.”
Another boat carrying more than a hundred Rohingya was rescued by the Sri Lankan Navy over the weekend.
In 2018, more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh after a military crackdown in Myanmar that witnesses said included mass killings and rape.
Rights groups and the media have documented the killing of civilians and the burning of villages.
(Reporting by Poppy McPherson, Additional reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi and Ruma Paul in Bangladesh, Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Michael Perry)
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