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Amnesty urges Asean not to abandon Rohingya stranded in the sea amid Covid-19 crisis

Apr 19. 2020
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By The Nation

Southeast Asian governments must immediately launch search and rescue operations for likely hundreds of Rohingya languishing at sea, amid increasing reports of vessels attempting dangerous trips in search of safety, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty said governments' preoccupation with the Covid-19 crisis was no excuse to ignore the lives of the stranded Rohingya.

In a repeat of the humanitarian crisis that the region saw five years ago, Malaysia has actively pushed back boats and turned desperate Rohingya people away, while Thailand has not said whether it has assisted any ships travelling off its coast. For years boats carrying thousands of desperate Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Myanmar or refugee camps in Bangladesh have been found at sea, seeking refuge in Southeast Asia.

Amnesty International said it was calling on regional governments "to allow them safe disembarkation", and for Asean members "to urgently agree on emergency measures to prevent another humanitarian crisis while accommodating governments’ existing Covid-19 restrictions at their borders".

“The battle against Covid-19 is no excuse for regional governments to let their seas become graveyards for desperate Rohingya people,” said Clare Algar, senior director for Research, Advocacy and Policy. 

“Regional governments have been here before and have the means to save their lives.

“Without urgent cooperation, Asean will face a new humanitarian crisis while also battling a pandemic. It is unacceptable that boats are going unaided and that some are being actively turned away from safe shores,” Algar said.

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