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UNHCR Lauds Malaysia For Accepting Persons Rescued At Sea

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UNHCR Lauds Malaysia For Accepting Persons Rescued At Sea

19 December 2012

Bangkok, 19 December 2012 - UNHCR lauds the decision made by the Malaysian Government to allow 40 persons rescued in the Bay of Bengal by a Vietnamese cargo ship, the MV Nosco Victory, to disembark on its territory yesterday, 18 December 2012.

“UNHCR commends the decision made by Malaysia to allow the safe and speedy disembarkation for this rescued group,” said UNHCR’s Regional Coordinator for South-east Asia, James Lynch. “We consider this a vital and a genuine humanitarian gesture on the part of the Malaysian Government, consistent with international norms for the protection of asylum-seekers and rescue at sea,”

On 05 December, the MV Nosco Victory had rescued the 40 persons in the Bay of Bengal where their overcrowded boat had sunk.  According to information available to UNHCR, it appears that those rescued by the MV Nosco Victory are from Myanmar and most likely Rohingya. Following the latest eruption of inter-communal violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state in October, hundreds of Rohingyas and others fled this part of the country in rickety boats. UNHCR has reason to believe there are people in need of international protection among those rescued by the MV Nosco Victory.

“We also greatly commend the quick and noble action of the captain and crew of the Nosco Victory.  Their actions are not only in line with international maritime law, but they represent the genuine humanitarian spirit that defines the long-standing tradition of rescue at sea,” said Lynch.

Last week, the MV Nosco Victory was not given permission for entry to Singapore by the country’s Maritime and Port Authorities before moving into Malaysian territorial waters.

UNHCR had appealed to the Singaporean authorities to allow the rescued passengers to disembark there, and later, appealed to the Malaysian Government who granted permission for the passengers to disembark.

The situation of the MV Nosco Victory clearly 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 these people in distress. With at least one other ship believed to have rescued more survivors from the boat that sunk, the call to countries to allow safe and prompt disembarkation continues. Also, UNHCR is planning to hold regional talks on irregular maritime movements early next year to bring all relevant parties together to discuss these important issues.

For further information please contact:

Vivian Tan

+88 017 303 28496