Eighteen humanitarian agencies called on governments in the region to save lives of stranded asylum seekers in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea.
COAST Trust, CARE, and OXFAM among others, made this call in a joint statement.The agencies urged the governments to conduct search and rescue operations to save the lives of the stranded people seeking asylum and allow them to disembark on their shores and provide adequate assistance.
In the statement, they also urged the states in the region to take urgent collective solutions to address the issue and better share responsibility for hosting refugees.
Hundreds of people, mainly Rohingyas, are currently believed to be stranded at sea. Bangladesh has recently allowed 400 people to disembark on its shores.
However, the other governments in the region have been increasingly reluctant to allow refugees to disembark, partly due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
The statement said, COVID-19 is no excuse to prevent people from disembarking, nor does it exempt states from upholding their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian, refugee, and maritime laws.Preventing these boats from coming ashore will probably lead to more deaths at sea, the humanitarian agencies said.
They also said, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Bangladesh are all members of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, which encourages a regional and coordinated approach to disembarkation.They urged all governments in the region to prioritise the needs of vulnerable people.
The other humanitarian agencies are Action Contre la Faim, Save the Children, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, Asian Dignity Initiative, ChildFund International, Danish Refugee Council, Humanity and Inclusion, ISDE Bangladesh, Médecins du Monde France, Médecins du Monde Switzerland, MUKTI Cox’s Bazar, Norwegian Refugee Council, PHALS, Plan International, Save the Children, and Solidarités International.