UNHCR commends Nosco Victory rescue effort, appeals for safe and speedy disembarkation of survivors

Briefing Notes, 18 December 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 18 December 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

[NOTE TO EDITORS: Please note that significant portions of information contained in the briefing note below, released this morning to press at the Geneva Palais, have been overtaken by new developments. At approximately 1140 CET this morning, UNHCR learned that the shipwreck survivors aboard the MV Nosco Victory had been disembarked at Johor Bahru in Malaysia. UNHCR welcomes this development and has issued a press release in Bangkok http://www.unhcr.org.my/News_Views-@-PressReleaseMVNoscoVictory.aspx. The text below is provided by way of record only.

In light of deteriorating conditions for some 40 people rescued by Vietnamese cargo ship MV Nosco Victory in the Bay of Bengal on 5th December, UNHCR is urgently appealing for states in the region to allow their immediate disembarkation on humanitarian grounds, and at the closest port. Last week, the MV Nosco Victory was denied entry to Singapore and is now in Malaysian waters near Johor Bahru. UNHCR had appealed to the Singaporean authorities to allow the rescued passengers to disembark there and is now in on-going dialogue with the Malaysian Government on this urgent matter. We are hopeful of a favourable response from Malaysia.

From a safety and strictly humanitarian perspective, we consider that disembarkation is vital for ensuring the well-being both of the rescued people and the MV Nosco Victory crew. Prior to their rescue, survivors of the initial boat sinking had spent many hours in the waters of the Bay of Bengal. It is still unclear how many people died in this incident. For 13 days the survivors have been under care of the MV Nosco Victory crew, but the ship's supply of food and water is running low. At least one other ship is believed to have rescued other survivors.

Currently available information is that those rescued by the MV Nosco Victory are from Myanmar, most likely members of the Rohingya population. Following the latest eruption of inter-communal violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state in October, hundreds of Rohingyas and others fled in rickety boats.

UNHCR commends the quick and noble action of the captain and the crew of MV Nosco Victory in coming to the aid of the shipwrecked people in line with obligations under international maritime law, and the long-standing tradition of rescue at sea. UNHCR reiterates its global call to all shipmasters and to coastal countries to uphold this tradition.

The current priority is to ensure safe and speedy disembarkation for this rescued group, to provide any urgent medical and other assistance they may need, and to find out if any among them are in need of international protection. UNHCR stands ready to help, including to screen potential asylum-seekers, assess their cases and seek solutions for them, together with the governments in the region.

The situation of the Nosco Victory highlights the need for governments in the region to agree on search and rescue procedures and how to share responsibility while meeting the urgent humanitarian needs of people in distress. UNHCR stands ready to support governments and plans to hold regional talks on irregular maritime movements early next year under the auspices of our Bali Process Regional Support Office. These talks will bring all relevant parties together to identify challenges and discuss measures for jointly addressing these movements in a spirit of cooperation and responsibility sharing

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangkok: Vivian Tan, mobile +66 818 270 280/li>
  • In Malaysia: Yante Ismail, mobile +601 3 352 6286/li>
  • In Geneva: Andrej Mahecic, mobile +41 79 200 76 17
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