An official said on Monday that the Sri Lankan navy rescued 104 Rohingya refugees stranded off the northern coast of the Indian Ocean island, as members of the Muslim minority continue to flee violence in Myanmar and hardship in Bangladesh refugee camps.
Every year, many Rohingya people risk their lives by attempting to reach Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia on rickety vessels, and their numbers have increased in response to deteriorating conditions in the camps and Myanmar's military coup last year.
According to a navy spokesperson, Captain Gayan Wickramasuriya, the boat was first detected by the Sri Lanka Navy when it was 3.5 nautical miles from shore, and a search and rescue operation was launched to eventually tow the vessel to a northern harbour on Sunday night.
"The people have been handed over to the police," Wickramasuriya said, according to Reuters. "The police will present them to a magistrate, who will decide the next course of action."
According to a navy statement, 104 Myanmar nationals were discovered aboard a small trawler believed to have originated in Myanmar and was on its way to Indonesia when it suffered engine trouble in rough seas.
According to Wickramasuriya, 39 women and 23 minors were among those rescued, and an 80-year-old man, one mother, and her two children were hospitalized with minor illnesses.
Following a military crackdown in Myanmar that included mass killings and rape, more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in 2018.
Civilians have been killed and villages have been burned, according to rights groups and the media./Reuters