Responding to reports that a boat is in distress and drifting in the Andaman Sea with an unconfirmed number of Rohingya refugees aboard, Save the Children's Asia Regional Director Hassan Noor said:
“We're calling for an immediate search and rescue effort to help save the lives of those who reportedly are on board the drifting vessel. The conditions on the vessel are bound to be dire, as we’ve heard from children who embarked on similar journeys last year, and we should all be concerned that those aboard will need food and water.
“This rescue effort must involve all relevant countries and authorities in the region. Governments can under no circumstances push any boats carrying refugees back out to sea. Instead they must allow them to dock and then provide humanitarian assistance to the people in need. Failure to do so violates international law and would also be cruel and inhuman, putting dozens of lives at risk.
“As far as we are aware, this is the first reported boat carrying Rohingya refugees seen this year. We’re faced with the grim prospect that unsafe maritime movements will pick up pace over the coming months since the monsoon has ended, and that usually heralds the start of the perilous ‘sailing season’.
“The people in distress on the reported vessel in the Andaman Sea must be a wakeup call to all governments in Asia, including ASEAN countries and members of the Bali Process, to work together to prevent deaths at sea. This should include coordinated search-and-rescue operations and responsibility sharing among countries to care for refugees.
“In 2020, UNHCR estimated that hundreds of people were stranded on board rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, almost one-third of whom were children. Some 200 people lost their lives, the majority were Rohingya refugees.
“In the name of humanity, we must prevent a similar tragedy from repeating itself this year.”
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