Scores of Rohingya refugees, attempting to flee a remote Bangladeshi island, have been missing since the early hours of Saturday as a boat carrying them capsized in the Bay of Bengal, officials said.
“Refugees were on board the boat when it capsized last late night. Some 14 of them have returned unharmed,” Mahe Alam, police chief on the Bhasan Char island, told Anadolu Agency over the telephone.
He added a joint rescue operation conducted by police, coast guard, navy and air force is still ongoing to reach out to the missing ones.
Bangladesh in several phases have relocated nearly 20,000 Rohingya on the island amid opposition from the international community over the safety at the distant location reportedly prone to natural disasters.
Currently, more than 1.1 million stateless Rohingya have been living in Bangladesh’s refugee camps in the southern district of Cox’s Bazar that is considered to be the world’s largest refugee settlements. Most of the persecuted Rohingya fled a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in August 2017.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sujit Kumar Chandra, camp-in-charge of the Bhasan Char Rohingya project, said that around 40 Rohingya were on board the boat that capsized in the Bay of Bengal.
“We are continuing our search to find out the missing ones,” he said, adding that no dead body has been found yet.
Requesting anonymity, a Rohingya refugee told Anadolu Agency there are many families who are mourning for their missing family members.
In February 2020, at least 15 Rohingya refugees died as an overcrowded wooden boat carrying over 100 people capsized en route to Malaysia./aa