Geneva: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has said it is shocked and saddened by reports that more than a dozen Rohingya – including children – have perished at sea off the coast of Myanmar over the weekend.
While details remain unclear, initial reports suggest the boat left Sittwe in Rakhine State, Myanmar on May 19.
It encountered bad weather in waters off Ayeyarwady Region, causing it to capsize near the coast of Pathein township on May 21.
At least 17 people are feared dead, with distressing reports of bodies found on the shore and the local communities burying the dead.
"The latest tragedy shows once again the sense of desperation being felt by Rohingya in Myanmar and in the region," said Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Director for Asia and the Pacific, in a press release on Monday.
"It is shocking to see increasing numbers of children, women and men embarking on these dangerous journeys and eventually losing their lives," Ratwatte said.
In Myanmar, UNHCR is urgently seeking more information on survivors that have arrived on shore in order to assess their situation.
Over the past decade, thousands of Rohingya have left by sea from the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh and Rakhine State in Myanmar.
"The root causes of these deadly journeys need to be addressed. Additionally, all countries in the region must come together to ensure the rescue and disembarkation of all those in distress at sea," Ratwatte added.
Some 630 Rohingya have attempted sea journeys across the Bay of Bengal from January to May 2022.
Women and children made up 60 per cent of people undertaking these perilous maritime crossings.
The risk of abuse at the hands of smugglers and the peril of the sea journey itself are both exacerbated during prolonged journeys, when a safe harbour for disembarkation cannot be found.