175 boat-people return back Bangladesh from deadly sea route

Returnee boat people at Cox’s Bazar meeting point

Returnee boat people at Cox’s Bazar meeting point

Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: On August 24, after languishing in Andaman jail for about eight months, 175 boat-people were handed over to Bangladesh Red Crescent under the supervision of Bangladesh Rifles at the Benapole-Petrapole border at around 9 am, who were rescued from the deadly sea route near the Andaman Islands, said Moniur (23), one of those who returned
Indian coastguards rescued at least 300 people from near death from a sinking engine less boat in December, 2008 as they were forced aboard and set adrift with scanty food and drink allegedly by Thai navy after they made an abortive attempt to go to Malaysia in search of jobs, according to the India rescued department sources.

Indonesia’s navy and Indian coastguards rescued boat people believed to be minority Muslims from Burma where human rights activists say were beaten and set adrift in open sea to die or into hell by the Thai military to deny them sanctuary

The boat people claim, Thailand’s navy intercepted their boat, detained them in filthy conditions for a week, tossed several bound men into the open sea and finally set their barge adrift in international waters — with no sail, scarcely any food and little hope of survival who floated aimlessly for 15 days in the deadly sea where most of boat people died, according to the boatpeople report.

The boat people who were rescued by India coastguards from drifting in deadly sea were return back to the Bangladesh are:- from Cox’s Bazar 9, Ukhia 12, Teknaf 61, Chakoria 38, Ramu 18, Kutubdia 5 and one each from Moheskhali and Pekoua Kuta Khali and other are Bandarban districts of Chittagong Hill Tracts, he added.

Azizul Islam, assistant commissioner, Cox’s Bazar on behalf of deputy commissioner and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society officials, Cox’s Bazar district unit officials were received the returnee boat people who arrived in Cox’s bazaar yesterday noon. Their family members were also waiting for them in the receiving point.

According to Moniur , “At first our boat along with 152 people was stopped by the Burmese Navy, and they provided us some rice, water and oil and then they showed us the way to Maylaysia. They didn’t create any trouble, but, when we reached the Thai coast, we were stopped again by the Thai Navy. They fed us and said that we have the chance to live with Thai Muslims. By saying that, at around 5 pm, and after seizing our clothes, they put us in a boat and sailed to an isolated Island from Ranong. After arrival at the island, we saw that about 300 to 400 boat-people had already been detained. We lived with them for two days in that island. The authorities fed us again.”

Two days later, six empty boats or trawlers arrived to the island, and put all 577 boat-people to four boats or trawlers and they took off the engines from the trawlers and put two rice bags and two gallons (30 litters) of water per boat and took the trawlers to deep sea tying it behind their ship. The authorities promised to transfer the boatpeople to a Malaysian ship which will take them to Maylaysia. After 38 hours on sea, they cut off the ropes and let us drift in the deep sea to die, Moniur added.

After which the trawlers floated on the sea, and one went to a westerly direction, two trawlers went to the south and the last one went to the east with the current. The trawler which went to west direction, he (Moniur) was in it. After 13 days of floating on sea, the trawler reached the base of a hill and stayed there one day. 19 people of the 152 boatpeople died of hunger while adrift. Next day, they reached a village walking. The villagers fed them, said Moniur.

The Indian Navy on the Andaman Island, took them to a training camp and detained them there. They were well fed and given medical treatment. They stayed there for around eight months. However, on August 20, 175 people (including 15 Rohingya) were put on a boat, and then after four days and four nights, it reached Kolkata. They were driven to Benapole border check post of India-Bangladesh. At last, they reached at Cox’s Bazaar in the evening of August 25, Moniur added.

Tareque Md. Ariful Islam, counselor of Bangladesh mission in Kolkata, officials of Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) police and Bangladesh Red Crescent Society formally received them at Benapole. He added that after permission from the Indian Government, they were brought to Kolkata from Port Blair, the capital of Anadaman Islands on August 21. They reached Kolkata on August 23.

The Bangladesh authorities had an arrangement for primary check up and treatment by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society and International Committee of the Red Cross at Benapole check post.

A Returnee boatpeople happily  join with family members in Cox’s Bazar  meeting point

A Returnee boatpeople happily join with family members in Cox’s Bazar meeting point

Kabir Uddin, a member of the returnee group, saying that nearly 500 Bangladeshis and Burmese were started for Malaysia from Teknaf by a trawler through the Bay of Bengal. But when the trawler reached Thai territory, were arrested by the Thai Coast Guards, where the Thai authority tortured us first and then took the trawler in the deep sea tying it behind their ship. From there we reached near the Andamans and later were rescued by Indain helicopter, many of our group died of hunger in the deep sea.

There are about 283 people present in Blair camp. Some touts took kyat 5,000 to 20,000 from them saying that they will provide jobs in Malaysia, said Moniur , who reached Cox’s Bazaar on August 25.

Returnees Hashim, said some local human traffickers took Taka 13,000 to 40,000 promising them jobs in Malaysia and put them on trawlers from Teknaf in Cox’s Bazaar for Malaysia.

The repatriation process of 175 boat-people from the Andaman was being supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi and Deputy High Commission of Bangladesh in Kolkata, said officials.

A first batch of 49 persons were sent back earlier this year after due verification. Now, the second batch of 175 Bangladeshis have been sent to their native land.

Indian ships had “rescued 446 Bangladeshi and Burmese refugees from four boats” since December 29, said Indian Coast Guard commander S.P. Sharma, according to AFP report.

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