25 Days On, 160 Rohingya Refugees on Boat Still Stranded, Still Starving

As per a call recording of the boatman, accessed by The Quint, the boat's coordinates show it's in Indian waters.

2 min read

Producer: Meghnad Bose

Video Editor: Meghnad Bose, Prajjwal Kumar

On 25 November, a boat carrying over 160 Rohingya refugees left Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar for Malaysia. On 1 December, the boat suffered an engine failure and got adrift somewhere in the Andaman Sea. It has been over 25 days but the boat has not hit the shore – leaving men, women and children starving and stranded. 

After multiple attempts, on 18 December, Rezuwan Khan – a was able to reach out to the captain of the boat. His sister Khatemonesa, 28, and her five-year-old daughter Umme Salima are among those on the ill-fated boat. Khan lives in Bangladesh’s Kutupalong refugee camp. 

In the phone call, the recording of which was accessed by The Quint, Khan can be heard telling the captain to keep his phone on so that rescue boats sent from Indonesia by Rohingya refugees can trace its location.  

“Give me the coordinates of your exact location now,” Khan can be heard saying. To this, the boatman sends him the coordinates, and claims that they are in the Andaman Sea in India.  

“We haven’t eaten anything in the last 8-10 days. We are starving. Three people have died,” a worried boatman can be heard telling Khan. With no food and no water, the passengers on-board the “non-seaworthy vessel” are in a dire situation. 

Khan has also posted these coordinates as an SOS tweet, tagging Indian authorities and pleading them for help.

On 16 December, the exiled Myanmar government released a statement that said at least three such boats had left from Bangladesh in late November. 

Of them, one was intercepted by an off-shore Vietnamese company, and those on board have been handed over to the military junta in Myanmar, a fate that the Rohingya refugees were desperately trying to escape.

Whereabouts of the second boat were unknown until 18 December, when the Sri Lankan navy found them adrift in the Indian Ocean. The 104 refugees on board were given first-aid and then handed over to the police. “The police will present them before a magistrate, who will decide the next step,” a spokesperson of the Sri Lankan navy told news agency Reuters.  

The third boat is now in Indian waters, hoping to be found. 

“I am requesting the Indian government and the Indian coast guard to let them disembark on the Indian land and to give them food, water and medication as much as possible. Saving the lives of these people is the most important thing right now,” Khan told The Quint.  

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