The Deadliest Year Yet: Hundreds of Rohingya Refugees Feared Drowned
A human rights crisis is unfolding in the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea. Are we doing enough to help?
- A human rights crisis has been unfolding in the Andaman Sea, with the disappearance, and possible sinking, of a boat holding 180 Rohingya Muslim refugees.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is worried that all 180 on board have drowned, as the boat, which set sail at the end of November, has disappeared and not made contact.
There are already 200 Rohingya refugees who are feared drowned in 2022 alone.
Who are the Rohingya?
- The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group who have long been targeted in ethnic cleansing campaigns in their native Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country.
Rohingya are generally denied citizenship and are perceived as illegal immigrants from South Asia by Myanmar's government and military.
Their plight drew international condemnation when they were subject to what was called the first Facebook facilitated genocide in 2017. The military instituted an informal policy of genocide and encouraged the masses to target the minority group.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled the country amid the violence, joining millions already living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country.
A Perilous Journey
The refugees are trying to flee destitute conditions in Bangladesh camps, and the UN has suggested that Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia are the ultimate destination for refugees making the arduous boat journey.
Roughly 2400 Rohingya refugees attempted to flee Bangladesh by boat this year, a five-fold increase from 2021.
Nearly 500 hundred refugees have landed in Indonesia after weeks adrift in the Indian Ocean within the past six weeks.
On Monday, a boat carrying 174 Rohingya washed ashore on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. The majority were life-threateningly dehydrated, malnourished, and disoriented from the perilous journey.
Some activists have suggested that the recent lifting of Covid restrictions in South-East Asia has led to an increase in the number of Rohingya refugees risking the journey.
What does the UN say?
- The UNHCR has urged other countries to help the Rohingya who are stranded at sea, often without food or water.
- The UN is reportedly troubled by the lack of international aid and cooperation.
How can the US help the Rohingya refugees?