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Fate of 81 Rohingya adrift at sea for weeks still unresolved, rights group says

India, Bangladesh and Myanmar are failing to provide information about a large group of Rohingya people whose boat has been adrift in the Andaman Sea for weeks, a rights organization said on March 25, despite appeals from humanitarian agencies to bring them to land.

“There is absolutely no information about the 81 Rohingyas as no country has provided an update or accepted them,” said Sabber Kyaw Min, founder of the India-based Rohingya Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi.

“We are getting frantic queries from the relatives whose people are stranded at the sea, but we have not a single strand of update from any source… We should be told if they are dead or alive,” said Kyaw Min.

The Indian foreign ministry did not respond to questions on whether the Rohingya will be allowed to enter India, and it also did not provide an update on talks with Bangladesh on the issue.

The group of Muslim Rohingya, who had left Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Feb. 11 in hopes of reaching Malaysia, were found by the Indian Coast Guard last month off the Andaman coast. Their crowded fishing boat was drifting after its engine developed technical problems.

India has been providing food, medical and technical aid to them but has so far rejected appeals to take the group to India and has instead urged Bangladesh to accept them back.

The Indian foreign ministry said last month that eight people originally on board the boat had died and many of the 81 survivors were sick and suffering from dehydration, having run out of food and water.

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Bangladesh’s foreign minister, A.K. Abdul Momen, told Reuters last month that his government expects India, the closest country, or Myanmar, the Rohingyas’ country of origin, to accept the group.

New Delhi has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, which spells out refugee rights and state responsibilities to protect them and nor does it have a law protecting refugees.

Predominantly Muslim Bangladesh is home to more than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Buddhist-majority Myanmar who are living in teeming camps.

Official sources in both Bangladesh and Myanmar have said they have not accepted India’s request to accept the refugees.

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