Andaman, MINA – Human Rights Watch have urged India to protect 81 Rohingya residents whose ships have been adrift in the Andaman Sea for more than two weeks.
“We beg the Indian authorities to bring our people ashore, how can all countries refuse to accept the 81 lives stranded in international waters?” said Sabber Kyaw Min, director of the Rohingya Human Rights Initiative (RHRI) in India on Monday.
Since last month, India has provided food, medical and technical assistance to Rohingya crammed aboard a fishing vessel that was found adrift in international waters after leaving southern Bangladesh.
The Rohingya were hoping to reach Malaysia but the ship’s engines suffered technical difficulties. Eight people on board had died and many of the 81 survivors were sick and suffering extreme dehydration from running out of food and water during the four days of their journey.
The Indian coast guard repaired the ship but did not allow it to enter Indian waters, and instead wanted it to return to Bangladesh.
“Eight people have died, we are entitled to receive their bodies,” said Min, who said he and some 16,000 Rohingya refugees living in India urged the government to accept distressed refugees.
Human Rights Watch South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said India must uphold its obligations under international law and protect refugees.
“The Rohingya have been persecuted for so long, and for so long, they are eager to find a place where they can be safe and feel welcome. However, no country in the world, not even those who sympathize with them, wants to do it,” said Ganguly.
India’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to questions about whether 81 Rohingya would be allowed to enter India, nor did it provide any updates on talks with Bangladesh on the issue.
New Delhi has not yet signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines the rights of refugees and the responsibility of the state to protect them, nor does it have laws protecting refugees.
However, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen last week told Reuters that his government expected India, a nearby country, or Myanmar, the country of origin of the Rohingya, to receive 81 survivors.
More than one million Rohingya refugees from predominantly Buddhist Myanmar live in overcrowded camps in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.
Many of them fled their home countries after Myanmar’s military launched a deadly crackdown in 2017. Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country. (T/RE1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)