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Sri Lankan Navy Rescues More Than 100 Rohingya Refugees Adrift off Indian Ocean

It is yet to be confirmed if the rescued vessel is one of the three boats that departed Bangladesh in November.

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The Sri Lankan navy rescued 104 Rohingya refugees aboard a small trawler adrift off the Indian Ocean island nation’s northern coast, officials said on Monday, 19 December.

The boat, first detected by the Sri Lankan Navy when it was close to 3.5 nautical miles (6.4 km) from shore, was towed to a northern harbour after a search and rescue operation was launched, navy spokesperson Captain Gayan Wickramasuriya said, according to Reuters

"The people have been handed over to the police…The police will present them before a magistrate who will decide the next step,” Wickramasuriya told Reuters. 

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas suffer poor living conditions in Bangladesh’s refugee camps after having escaped widespread violence at the hand of the Myanmar military in 2017.

A statement from the navy said that 104 Myanmar nationals were found aboard a small trawler suspected to have originated from Myanmar. The statement claimed that the boat was heading to Indonesia when it ran into engine trouble in rough sea. 

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3 Boats Carrying Rohingya Refugees at Sea

Three boats carrying Rohingya refugees were reported to have set sail form Bangladesh in late November. 

As per a statement, released on 16 December by Myanmar's exiled National Unity Government, one vessel carrying Rohingya refugees had been "intercepted by a Vietnamese off-shore company" and handed over to Myanmar Navy; another vessel experienced "engine failure"; and the whereabouts of the third vessel were "unknown."

While the second boat, which experience engine failure, is reported to be in Indian waters, the Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday rescued a vessel with over 100 refugees and brought them to shore.

Four of the refugees with minor ailments and injuries were admitted in a local hospital.

It is yet to be confirmed whether the vessel rescued by the Sri Lankan Navy is one of the three boats that departed Bangladesh in November.

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