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HRAS calls for action on growing migrant crisis in north of the Malacca Straits

HRAS calls for action on growing migrant crisis in north of the Malacca Straits
The Human Rights At Sea (HRAS) organisation has urged the shipping industry consider acting in the search and rescue for thousands of migrants adrift in the Bay of Bengal and the Malacca Strait.

As Europe continues to battle waves of migrants coming across the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia is facing its own crisis with the International Organization on Migration saying that up 7,000 migrants are at sea in the region as there is a surge of refugees from Bangladesh and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.

Three boats with a thousand refugees landed on the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi in the north of the Malacca Straits at the weekend.

HRAS said that people had been abandoned on several vessels, possibly a flotilla, with the vessels though to be flying Thai or Indonesian flags.

“HRAS urges the global shipping community and owners to consider acting on this information for vessels in the vicinity and transiting the straits to be aware of the issue and to be vigilant,” it said.

As yet no formal search and rescue effort is believed to have been established and the search and rescue (SAR) area would be of a significant size.

“This effort could be enhanced by vessels passing through the Straits and in the vicinity being involved from a SAR perspective,” HRAS added.

“The information coming into Human Rights at Sea is that this is the tip of the iceberg,” warned HRAS founder David Hammond.

“The smugglers are now retaining the migrants in ships and staying out at sea to avoid detection. Issues being highlighted are the conditions onboard if the migrants cannot be off-loaded and what the traffickers will do with those migrants to avoid detention and arrest.”

The Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are stateless and been the victim of widespread persecution.

Refugees have taken to heading to Malaysia after Thailand cracked down on people smugglers in the border regions with Malaysia. After the Thai government ordered clear up of suspected smuggler camps 33 bodies, believed to be of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh, were found in shallow graves in the south, near the Malaysian border.