UN rights chief calls for countries to protect Rohingya refugees after sea rescue

The UN human rights chief has urged more countries to protect Rohingya refugees just days after nearly 200 of them were rescued from a stricken vessel in Indonesia.

On Monday, 185 starving Rohingya refugees – including many women and children – were rescued from a rickety wooden boat after a month at sea.

The rights chief Volker Türk said countries need to take a coordinated approach to prevent Rohingya deaths at sea — more than 200 have died trying to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh this year alone.

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar are risking their lives to cross the sea to seek safety in Indonesia, often in overcrowded and unsafe boats that are left adrift for days without help.

After being targeted by Myanmar’s military in 2017, nearly 1 million Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, where they now live in what is widely regarded as one of the world’s largest refugee camps.

But thousands have abandoned the ever-worsening conditions in the camps and are making the perilous journey via sea.

This year alone, more than 2,400 Rohingya have attempted the sea journey.

READ: The Rohingya crisis — a 30 second explanation

Countries need to do more

With no sign of the crisis ending, The UN High Commissioner has urged more countries to assist in safeguarding Rohingya refugees.

Türk said states need to coordinate rescue operations and protect refugees when they disembark in their regions.  He also called on the international community to help Bangladesh.

“An urgent solution must be found to enable the voluntary return of all Rohingya, with full respect of their dignity and human rights as full and equal citizens of Myanmar”, said the High Commissioner.

On Wednesday, UAE Princess Hend bint Faisal Al Qasim spoke out about the persecution of the Rohingya, saying that nobody discusses their plight because they are Muslim.

“Nobody speaks of the Rohingya because they are Muslim refugees. They lived in Myanmar for 800 years and are ethnically cleansed. They have no oil, no wealth and their enemy is a loser no one is interested in defying like Russia & North Korea. #Islamophobia #MuslimHolocaust (sic),” she said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Stateless people

The Rohingya are one of the world’s largest groups of stateless people and one of the most persecuted minorities in world, according to the UN.

They have faced decades of persecution, including forced labour, land confiscation, and restrictions on movement in Myanmar.  

In 2017, Myanmar’s military launched a brutal crackdown on Rohingya communities, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes from the Buddhist-majority nation.

The situation has been described as ethnic cleansing by the United Nations and other organisations.  

Earlier this year, the US formally declared that Myanmar’s repression of the Rohingya Muslim population amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity,  

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