Rohingya people in Myanmar (Reuters) Rohingya people in Myanmar (Reuters) 

Scores of Rohingya refugees drown in a boat capsizing in the Bay of Bengal

17 people died and some 30 are still missing after their boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal. The authorities report that the exact time and the causes of the incident are still unknown.

By Edoardo Giribaldi

A boat transporting a group of Rohingya migrants from Myanmar has capsized in the Bay of Bengal, causing the death of 17 people, a rescue official said on Thursday, adding that 30 other people are missing.

Unknown causes

According to Byar La, general secretary of the Shwe Yaung Metta Foundation, about 55 people were on the boat as it left Buthidaung, situated in the western state of Rakhine, Myanmar. last weekend.

He added that the accident occurred in the sea near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, but the exact time and what caused the capsizing are still unknown.

The search for the missing bodies along the shore in Sittwe between Monday and Wednesday has brought to the recovery of 17 bodies, including ten women, while Myannmar's security forces took away the eight survivors, the general secretary concluded. 

Rohingya's persecution

Rohingya, a Muslim minority, have been persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar since August 2017, when the military launched a clearance operation against the minority in response to attacks by a rebel group.

Myanmar has denied citizenship to most Rohingya. They are also denied freedom of movement and other rights, including education. Amnesty International likened the living conditions of the Rohingya in Rakhine State to "apartheid."

According to the Associated Press, more than 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar, while 100,000 are still living in Myanmar, confined to wretched displacement camps, not considering those living in crowded refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh.

Hazardous voyages

According to January data provided by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 3,500 Rohingya on 39 ships attempted to cross the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in 2022, up from 700 the previous year.

They usually embark on hazardous voyages to the Muslim-majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia to seek better living conditions.

Pope Francis' closeness

Pope Francis has shown closeness and compassion to the persecuted Rohingya community throughout the years. In 2017, the Holy Father met with refugees in Bangladesh, taking time to listen to their stories and asking for forgiveness on behalf of the world that had been indifferent to them.

“The presence of God, today, is also called “Rohingya”. May each of us respond in his or her own way.”

On February 2018, the Pope received in audience the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, thanking her for the nation's reception of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine State.

More recently, speaking during the Regina Coeli prayer on May 28, 2023, the Pope had appealed to authorities handling the access of humanitarian assistance to facilitate the delivery of aid to people struck by Cyclone Mocha in the Bay of Bengal, highlighting how "more than 800.000 people," in addition to the many Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar and arriving in Bangladesh in "precarious conditions" were in need of help.

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11 August 2023, 13:00