The United Nations believes thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees remain adrift at sea in dangerously overcrowded vessels with little to no food supplies.
Rohingya people are an ethnic minority from Myanmar who are denied citizenship and often flee persecution only to fall victim to human traffickers.
The UNHCR estimates 25,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya fled in boats during the first three months of 2015 – double the number in the same period of 2014.
It is believed the boats carry refugees and asylum seekers were abandoned by people smugglers following reports of boats being refused entry to regions in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Reports from journalists working in the region indicate that individuals on the crowded vessels are severely malnourished and in need of medical attention.
Several boats have been turned back from neighbouring countries in the South East Asia region. The UN has renewed calls urging that all migrants and asylum seekers be adequately assessed and afforded the protections of international human rights and refugee law.
More than a 1000 refugees and asylum seekers, who survived the sinking of a boat off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province, have recalled the dire conditions and violence over dwindling supplies of food and water.
Justice and International Mission unit director, Dr Mark Zirnsak said the situation has reached a new crisis point. Adding that individuals must be processed and resettlement provided where the Rohingya are found to be refugees.
“Uniting Church members have been advocating to the Thai Government for more than a year to end what has effectively become a slave trade in Rohingya asylum seekers,” Dr Zirnsak said.
“The governments of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia need to allow the refugees to land and be provided with humanitarian assistance.”
The recent discovery of bodies, thought to be Rohingya people, in what are believed to be abandoned human trafficking camps in Thailand’s Songkhla province has further highlighted the horrific condition facing the Rohingya people.
Countries in the region are calling on Myanmar authorities to take action as thousands of Rohingya people continue to flee Myanmar were they are considered Bangladeshi migrants despite residing in the country for generations.
Image via Rohingyana: A Rohingya with her baby watches other women begging for fish from a boat returning from the sea at the Cox’s Bazar fishing port. Rohingya is a Muslim ethnic community from Myanmar Arakan State. They represent one of the largest stateless populations on Earth, whether in Myanmar where an estimated one million people don’t have the citizenship status or in other countries, particularly in Bangladesh, where possibly another 500,000 live as refugees or illegal migrants.