The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on Monday for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees adrift in a boat in the Andaman Sea without food or water, many of them ill and suffering from extreme dehydration.
The agency said it understood that the boat left southern Bangladesh about 10 days ago and experienced engine failure but it did not know the exact location of the vessel now.
It is understood some of those aboard have already died, it said.
A senior Indian coast guard official confirmed to Reuters that the boat has been tracked to an area off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
At least eight people have died on the boat, according to Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a group that monitors the Rohingya crisis. He said Indian navy vessels that were close by had provided food and water to those on the boat, adding, “But we still don’t know what they will do afterwards.”
According to UNHCR, the boat set out from the Bangladesh coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, where about a million Rohingya live in sprawling refugee camps.
Authorities in Bangladesh said on Monday they were unaware of any boats leaving the camps. “If we had had such information, we would have stopped them,” said Rafiqul Islam, a police superintendent in Cox’s Bazar.
Amnesty International said in a statement that too many lives had already been lost because of countries refusing to assist Rohingya people at sea.
“Another repeat of those shameful incidents must be avoided here,” said Amnesty South Asia campaigner Saad Hammadi.
“After years of limbo in Bangladesh and following the recent coup in Myanmar, Rohingya people feel they have no option but to undertake these perilous journeys.”