Sri Lankan Navy rescues more than 100 Rohingya refugees drifting at sea

(Morning News) The Sri Lankan Navy said on Monday (December 19) that it rescued 104 drifting Rohingya off the northern coast of the Indian Ocean island on Sunday (December 18) night.

The Sri Lankan navy spotted a boat 3.5 nautical miles off the coast on Sunday night, the spokesperson said, Reuters reported. The navy then launched an operation that culminated in towing the boat to a northern port. The small trawler, suspected to be from Myanmar, was carrying 104 Myanmar nationals, the navy statement said. The ship was heading for Indonesia when it encountered engine failure in rough seas.

Every year, many Rohingya risk their lives trying to travel on rickety boats to South East Asia countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia to escape violence in Myanmar and suffering in refugee camps in Bangladesh. There has been a surge in Rohingya fleeing amid a coup in Myanmar and deteriorating conditions in refugee camps.

Further reading Myanmar authorities arrest 70 Rohingya Stuck in Bangladesh accused of crimes, Rohingya refugees fear rising hatred

A Sri Lankan Navy spokesman said the Rohingya had been handed over to the police, who would hand it over to a judge to decide on the next steps. Among those rescued, he said, were 39 women and 23 minors; an 80-year-old man, a mother and her two children were hospitalized due to illness.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a 2018 military crackdown in Myanmar; witnesses say this included mass killings and rapes.

Myanmar authorities say they were fighting an insurgency at the time and deny systematic atrocities.

Related articles