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Save lives in the Andaman Sea

UNHCR urges states

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 24 December, 2022 12:00 AM
  • Print news

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is reminding States in the region that some 190 desperate people are on the verge of perishing at sea, adrift somewhere between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal as pleas to rescue and disembark them are continuously ignored.

Reports indicate those onboard have now remained at sea for a month in dire conditions with insufficient food or water, without any efforts by States in the region to help save human lives. Many are women and children, with reports of up to 20 people dying on the unseaworthy vessel during the journey. 

“This shocking ordeal and tragedy must not continue. These are human beings – men, women and children. We need to see the States in the region help save lives and not let people die,’’ said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Director for Asia and the Pacific.

Since the first reports of the boat being sighted in Thai waters, UNHCR has received unverified information of the vessel being spotted near Indonesia and then subsequently off the coast of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. The boat’s current location is reportedly once more back eastwards, in the Andaman sea north of Aceh.

UNHCR has repeatedly asked all countries in the region to make saving lives a priority. The agency had alerted the Indian marine rescue centre earlier this week, requesting immediate action to save lives and allow for disembarkations.

It is very hard for UNHCR to verify this information, but if true this will take the number of dead and missing in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to nearly 200 this year. A shocking number that represents around 10 percent of the estimated 2,000 people who have taken risky sea journeys in the region in 2022.

All States have a responsibility to rescue those on the boat and allow them to safely disembark in line with legal obligations and in the name of humanity.