The Rohingya refugees who were believed to have drowned after trying to swim to the shore of the resort island of Langkawi, have been found alive on an another part of the island.
The Malaysian coastguard reported on Sunday (July 26) that 24 Rohingya were missing at sea and only one reportedly reached land. Later that evening, 26 were found alive on an island off Langkawi, including men, women and children.
“While this story has had a happy ending, such potential tragedies could be avoided if Malaysian and Thai authorities allowed Rohingya refugees to disembark from boats instead of callously pushing them back out to sea,” Rachel Chhoa-Howard of Amnesty International’s Malaysia Researcher commented about the incident.
Chhoa-Howard said ASEAN governments must immediately launch co-ordinated search and rescue missions for remaining survivors and allow all boats carrying refugees and migrants to land safely in the nearest country to meet their humanitarian needs.
“Unless this happens, more lives will inevitably be lost”Chhoa-Howard ended.
In recent months, hundreds of Rohingya refugees have been stranded at sea for weeks and months, and scores are believed to have died while fleeing violence in Myanmar and poor conditions in Bangladesh refugee camps.
With boats as their only option, Southeast Asian governments have blocked them from landing safely and seeking asylum, and failed to launch search and rescue operations.
Under international law and regional commitments nations are obliged to help and rescue refugees.
In June, 269 Rohingya were detained on arrival in Langkawi after their boat broke down. At the time, the Malaysian Maritime Agency said they had been transferred from a larger “mother boat” on which dozens of people were believed to have died and been thrown into the sea during a journey lasting months. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)