Myanmar to repatriate rescued migrants

Myanmar gets ready to repatriate 200 refugees at Bangladeshi border

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Myanmar is preparing to repatriate 200 migrants who were rescued from a stranded vessel at the Bangladeshi border, an official from the Rakhine state government said on Tuesday.

Myanmar’s navy found two stranded vessels off the coast of Rakhine State last week on Thursday, one of which was full of 208 refugees who were waiting to be rescued. Two hundred of those rescued are Bangladeshis and the rest are “Bengalis” from Rakhine, the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar has reported.

The refugees were travelling from Bangladesh's coastal resort of Cox's Bazar, the port city of Chittagong and the country’s capital,Dhaka.

After Thailand moved against human traffickers and forced them to abandon some ships, thousands of migrants have been stranded off the coasts of Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thousands of people have been trafficked by a Bangladeshi broker network which convinced people to flee to South Asia this year, according to a report from AA.

Victims who were misled or kidnapped by the brokers were gathered between the commercial port city of Chittagong and Teknaf near the border with Myanmar, according to the families of victims and official sources.

“Government officials, UN agencies and other aid groups scrutinized some 208 boat people sheltered at relief camps in Ale Thankyaw village in Rakhine State," the report said.

“Eight of those were found to be Bengalis from Rakhine State," it added.

The report used the term “Bengalis,” which is being used by Myanmar’s government to refer to 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims in the country as the ethno-religious group are considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by Myanmar’s government.    

The decision to repatriate the migrants came following long talks between Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry, Myanmar's ambassador to Bangladesh, and Bangladesh officials on Monday in Myanmar, according to the Global New Light.

“The official took note of these people’s documents, with information including their addresses, and will submit them to his government through the Bangladesh Embassy in Myanmar,” Rakhine state government secretary Tin Maung Swe told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“Once they are received, Bangladesh will begin work on accepting them back. It won’t happen immediately, but it shouldn’t take long,” he added.   

The UN estimates that more than 130,000 Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee their homes due to Buddhist violence and poverty since mid-2012.

Myanmar is under international pressure because of its policy of discrimination against the ethnic Rohingya, but the country rejects claims that it has acted wrongly and blames human trafficking for the current boat crisis.    

Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar announced on Wednesday that they will hold a protest against international pressure on the country to help refugees who are stranded at sea, according to a report from AFP.