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Desperation on the Andaman Sea

For days, they were an undertow, an unseen tide of people adrift in the Andaman Sea. UNHCR and its partners had warned that thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis were held captive at sea, then abandoned as their crew fled government crackdowns on smuggling and trafficking networks.

Then a green boat surfaced on TV, packed with emaciated men, crying women and sick children, all dehydrated, hungry and desperate. It gave a face to the problem, then vanished overnight. After five days drifting between the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia, some 400 people on board were finally rescued by Indonesian fishermen in the early hours of May 20.

They are among more than 3,000 lucky ones who have been able to come ashore since May 10 in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where UNHCR is helping to assess their needs. Thousands more could still be stranded at sea. In a welcome statement on May 20, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to bring these vulnerable people to shore - a move that will hopefully end the long nightmare at sea.

Desperation on the Andaman Sea

22 May 2015

For days, they were an undertow, an unseen tide of people adrift in the Andaman Sea...

Exodus from the Bay of Bengal

Their stories are harrowing, detailing abuse on overcrowded smugglers' boats from Bangladesh and Myanmar. Those who survive suffer further violence - sometimes fatal - in jungle camps, until their relatives can pay for their release. Yet Rohingya and Bangladeshis continue to sail from the Bay of Bengal in large numbers, including some 25,000 who boarded smugglers' boats between January and March 2015 - almost double the number over the same period in 2014. Two photographers in Bangladesh travelled to the south-east last year to document the already substantial outflow among unregistered Rohingya.

* Names have been changed for protection reasons

Exodus from the Bay of Bengal

11 May 2015

Their stories are harrowing, detailing abuse on overcrowded smugglers' boats from Bangladesh and Myanmar...