UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is urging countries in the region to immediately rescue and safely disembark a group of Rohingya refugees in distress, reported to be drifting in a non-seaworthy vessel in the Andaman Sea.
UNHCR had earlier received reports of some 200 Rohingya refugees being stranded on a boat off the coast of Thailand, needing urgent help. Reports suggested the boat was adrift since 1 December, after its engines broke down.
Those on board have been without food and water for days and are suffering extreme dehydration. Unverified information suggests a number of Rohingya refugees have already lost their lives, among them, women and children. There is a significant risk of additional fatalities in the coming days if people are not rescued and disembarked to safety.
In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status.
We appeal to all authorities in the region to fully deploy their rescue capacities and promptly facilitate disembarkation for this group to a place of safety. The priority must now be to save lives and avoid even greater tragedy.
UNHCR stands ready to support in providing any necessary humanitarian assistance for those disembarked.
This incident echoes UNHCR’s recent call for support and solidarity amid the rise in risky Andaman Sea crossings. UNHCR and humanitarian partners observed a dramatic surge in people attempting perilous crossings of the Andaman Sea. UNHCR continues to call for improved regional and international cooperation and coordination to save lives.
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