Dramatic increase in Andaman Sea crossings, warns UN refugee agency — Global Issues

The Southeast Asian waterway is one of the world’s most dangerous, and more than 1,900 people have made the journey since January – six times more than in 2020.

‘Serious risk’ at sea

UNHCR warns that efforts in these journeys are putting people at serious risk and deadly consequences, said UNHCR Spokesperson Shabia Mantoo. “Sadly, 119 people have been reported dead or missing on these journeys, this year alone.”

Most of those who risked their lives were Rohingya refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom fled Myanmar in 2017 to escape military repression.

In a call for help from governments in the region, UNHCR said the most recent arrivals included more than 200 people in North Aceh, Indonesia, where authorities allowed them to disembark and provide shelter. Ms. Mantoo said the agency welcomes and appreciates their efforts.

UN support

The refugees who had landed safely on the Indonesian coast from two boats two weeks ago are now being received, somewhat ironically, at a former immigration office in Lhokseumawe.

UNHCR, with the United Nations migration agency, IOM and partners, are on the ground, the Spokesperson said.

“We are working closely with local authorities to help support refugees, including through registration, providing their basic needs and working to ensure safe and adequate accommodation. for two groups.”

More than drift

UNHCR has also received unverified reports of boats with desperate people adrift at sea who need rescue and attention, she said.

With increasing levels of despair and vulnerability forcing many refugees to make these deadly journeys, UNHCR and its humanitarian partners continue to stress the need to strengthen regional cooperation and internationally to save lives and share responsibility.

Ms. Mantoo added that Indonesia currently has nearly 13,000 refugees and asylum seekers mainly from Afghanistan, Somalia and Myanmar and should not be alone in rescuing and rescuing people at sea.

“It is imperative that countries in the region uphold the commitments they made in 2005 under the Bali Process to work together to find solutions to these desperate journeys.”

In 2016, Asia-Pacific governments pledged to do more to prevent the deaths of people on such trips, after 5,000 men, women and children were trafficked. abandoned in the Andaman Sea and left to starve, starve, and disease for months.


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