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15 Tuesday, October 1, 2019 18:59

Rohingya refugees continue to risk lives to seek safety: UNHCR


A photo released in April 2019 showed dozens of people, believed to be Rohingya from Myanmar, after they were dropped off from a boat on a beach near Perlis, Malaysia [File: Malaysia Royal Police via AP] Refugees from Southeast Asia, many of whom are members of Myanmars Rohingya minority, continue to risk their lives to reach safety, according to a new report by the United Nations, which also highlights a much higher rate of deaths over the last year.

The report released on Tuesday by the UNs refugee agency (UNHCR) said one person in every 69 refugees and asylum seekers who embarked on a sea journey last year in the region died or went missing at sea.That is up from the one in every 81 ratio between 2013 to 2015, at the height of Southeast Asias refugee and migrant boat crisis in the Andaman Sea.

As long as the root causes of displacement are unresolved, refugees will continue to feel compelled to undertake dangerous journeys in search of safety for themselves and their families, UNHCR Director for Asian and the Pacific Indrika Ratwatte, said in a statement.He appealed to countries in the region to provide orderly and safe pathways to reduce the danger for refugees and asylum seekers.

While the overall number of people attempting the journey has decreased, the fatality rate has increased, the report said, adding that between January and June of this year, 15 more people have died while attempting to cross seas and rivers. Confirmed reports are, however, only the tip of the iceberg given most bodies are never found and many missing persons never reported, the UNHCR said.

In previous years, people smugglers were to blame for most of the deaths, due to beating, gunshot wounds or deprivation of food and water during the journey.But since 2018, the primary cause of death or disappearance at sea was due to boats in distress, with many vessels without professional crews and not built for or equipped to make long journeys safe for refugees, the report added.

In Southeast Asia, the conflict in Myanmar remains the dominant factor pushing the forced migration.Since August 2017, more than 740,000 members of Myanmars long-persecuted mostly-Muslim minority fled to neighbouring Myanmar to escape a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine state.In 2018 and this year, meanwhile, an escalating conflict between Arakan Army, an armed group seeking more autonomy for Rakhine states Buddhist-majority population, and the Myanmar armed forces has displaced an additional 22,000 refugees - further complicating the situation on the ground and exacerbating existing challenges and difficulties faced by the Rohingya, the report added.

In a report in September, the UN Human Rights Council had warned that as many as 600,000 Rohingya remaining in Myanmars Rakhine state face a serious risk of genocide.Faces of desperation: These #Rohingya from Rakhine state are officially illegal migrants for trying escape the apartheid-like #Myanmar govt-imposed poverty & isolation of their communities.

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News Code: 371589  |  aljazeera
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