UN Agency Reports That 2020 Was The Deadliest Year For Rohingya Refugees

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports the year 2020 was the deadliest ever for Rohingya refugees crossing the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, the preferred sea route for Rohingya trying to reach Southeast Asia from the sprawling refugee camps in Bangladesh.
218 of the 2,413 people who traveled in 2020 died or went missing at sea, according to a UNHCR report issued on Thursday, Left Adrift at Sea: Dangerous Journeys of Refugees Across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. This made an already dangerous journey eight times more deadly than in 2019.
Southeast Asian countries have become increasingly hesitant to accept Rohingya refugees, citing the COVID-19 outbreak as a reason not to accept them.
In its report, the agency noted that countries had “pushed back” vessels, leaving refugees stranded for months on unseaworthy boats which lacked food and water.
Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in June 2020 that the economic downturn caused by the pandemic prevented Malaysia from taking Rohingya in. There are more than 100,000 Rohingya in Malaysia, and they are left to survive on their own with the support of civil society and community groups. Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. They cannot work and have limited access to health care and education.
UNHCR called on all states in the region to look for and rescue refugees in distress at sea and allow them to disembark to safety.
It also called on countries in the region to provide access to asylum procedures for those who disembark and to address the root causes of refugee maritime movements, such as expanding access to safe legal pathways.
Earlier this week, a boat carrying about 40 Rohingya refugees capsized in bad weather in the Bay of Bengal after trying to escape Bhasan Char. About 14 people were rescued and taken back to the island, but more than two dozen others are believed to have drowned.
After drifting for more than 100 days at sea, a boat carrying 81 people washed ashore on an uninhabited island off the Indonesian island of Sumatra in June 2021. Refugee workers report that the group, many of whom are women and children, had originally come from Bangladesh camps to the waters off India’s coast. When their boat broke down, the Indian coastguard fixed it and provided supplies, but refused to let them land.

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