Rohingya refugees tell Malaysia how dozens died during 4-month voyage
October 3, 2022

Rohingya refugees tell Malaysia officials how dozens perished during four-month voyage

KUALA LUMPUR (MALAYSIA) – Survivors from a boat packed with over 300 Rohingya Muslim refugees told Malaysian officials that dozens of their people perished and their bodies were thrown in the sea during a tortuous four-month voyage.

The head of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) described the ordeal of the refugees whose damaged boat landed on the Malaysian island of Langkawi on June 8, with 269 people aboard.

More than 300 Rohingya refugees had been shifted to this boat from a larger “motherboat” half-way through a voyage that began close to the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in February, MMEA Director General Mohd Zubil Bin Mat Som told a briefing on Wednesday.

“But some died at sea. They were thrown overboard,” he said, adding that the fatalities were due to sickness.

As authorities have been unable to track the whereabouts of “Motherboat 1”, the fate of 500 Rohingya who had remained onboard aftersome passengers were shifted remains unknown.

Having lost hope of making a better life in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, where many had taken shelter after fleeing their homes in Myanmar following a military crackdown in 2017, the Rohingya risked the perilous voyage.

Muslim-majority Malaysia is home to the second largest number of Rohingya refugees after Bangladesh.

But in recent weeks, the Southeast Asian country has turned away at least two boats and detained hundreds of Rohingya and undocumented migrants, amid heightened public resentment towards foreigners who have been accused of spreading the coronavirus.

Mohd Zubil said the Rohingya survivors, who have since been detained, had paid traffickers about 2,500 ringgit ($585) up front for the voyage, with a pledge to pay an additional 11,000-13,000 ringgit once they found jobs in Malaysia.

Most of them were women to be given in marriage to Rohingya men in Malaysia, he said.

Mohd Zubil declined to comment on whether a decision had been made to push the detainees back out to sea once their boat is repaired.

(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field

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