World

Hundreds of Rohingya Migrants Stranded as Malaysia Turns Boats Away

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Migrants, believed to be Rohingya, raise their hands during an inspection at a shelter in Lhoksukon, Indonesia's Aceh Province, May 12, 2015. Roni Bintang/Reuters

Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia are continuing to turn away boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants, despite reports that 10 people have died after a boat became stranded in the Andaman Sea.

Two large boats carrying hundreds of migrants were stranded after Malaysia turned both vessels away, the AP reports. Another boat carrying around 350 Rohingya migrants was kept at bay by Thai authorities. Those on the boat, which is stranded off the coast of Indonesia, told the BBC the crew abandoned the ship and 10 people had died. Some are drinking urine to survive as there’s no food or water, they said.

A boat carrying journalists in the Andaman Sea got close enough to hear cries of “Please help us! I have no water!” and “Please give me water!” coming from the fishing boat, The New York Times reports. The migrants said they had been on the boat for three months and the crew had abandoned them six days ago.

Thomas Fuller, a reporter with The New York Times, tweeted Vines he took of the migrants on Thursday.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group who have for decades been ill-treated and persecuted in Myanmar, have been taking to the seas in ever-larger numbers to escape deplorable conditions in the camps where many are forced to live in Myanmar and in Bangladesh. Myanmar’s 1.33 million Rohingya population is not recognized by Thein Sein, who refers to them as “Bengalis,” implying that they’re in the country illegally.

"We have to send the right message that they are not welcome here," Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Jafaar told the AP. He also said the country has been humane to the migrants, but they “cannot be flooding our shores like this.”

Around 25,000 Rohingya migrants took to trafficking boats between January and March this year, twice as many as the same period in 2014. Around 1,600 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants were rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Sunday and detained in Malaysia on Monday; Thailand is the usual destination for smuggling boats, but since it closed its borders to the boats, Malaysia and Indonesia have become hot spots.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern about the crisis and urged countries to “keep their borders and ports open in order to help the vulnerable people who are in need.” Ban also said the root causes of the exodus—human rights violations—need to be addressed.

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