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50 rescued, about 60 still missing as illegal immigrants' boat sinks off Bangladesh

English.news.cn   2012-11-07 21:48:01            

By Naim-Ul-Karim

DHAKA, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) -- Some 50 people have been rescued, but another 60 people are still missing after their motorboat capsized in the Bay of Bengal early Wednesday.

The overloaded wooden boat with 110 illegal immigrants on board heading for Malaysia capsized in the Bay of Bengal close to Bangladesh's southeastern border with Myanmar.

Lieutenant Colonel Zahid Hasan, commanding officer of the 42nd Battalion of the Border Guard of Bangladesh (BGB), told Xinhua " some 50 people have been rescued after the boat capsized with 110 illegal immigrants."

He said BGB, Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Coast Guard and local fishermen have rescued the survivors including Bangladesh nationals and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.

The boat capsized about 20-25 nautical miles southwest of Teknaf under Bangladesh's Cox's Bazaar district, some 292 southeast of capital Dhaka.

Quoting the survivors, Hasan said the lower part of the overloaded boat was damaged an hour after it set out and later it capsized in the Bay of the Bengal. Many of the missing persons feared to have drowned, he said.

"We don't know even how many of the rescued persons were Bangladeshi nationals and Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims. Because most the survivors rescued by local fishermen had left the scene immediately before we reached being afraid that they would be detained for their illegal efforts to get into Malaysia," Hasian said.

But he said, "it's true to say there will have many Rohingya Muslims because whenever a boat either capsized or was seized we come to know that some of the passengers are Rohingya."

Officials could not also confirm whether the sunken boat comprised Rohingyas who were legally or illegally living in Bangladesh camps for a long time or those who entered Bangladesh recently after the fresh wave of violence.

About 28,000 Rohingya Muslims have reportedly been displaced from Myanmar in the latest violence last month. Fresh incidents of violence claimed at least 80 people while thousands of homes have been burnt down. Clashes with Buddhists in Rakhine in western Myanmar earlier this year also reportedly uprooted over 70,000 Rohingya Muslims.

According to the Bangladeshi foreign ministry, more than 28,000 registered refugees are currently staying at two camps in southeastern Bangladesh, and there are 300,000 to 500,000 illegal Rohingya immigrants throughout the country

Sources said there is a syndicate, comprising people from Bangladesh and neighboring Myanmar, who have long been involved in trafficking people from the country.

Against this backdrop, boat capsizal with illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is a recurring story, with Thailand, Malaysia and some other Southeast Asian countries being the destinations of illegal work seekers.

On Wednesday, Hasan said BGB personnel also seized another small boat packed with 12 illegal migrants heading for Malaysia.

He said BGB has already strengthened patrolling the waters for illegal immigrants along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border as the number of incidents to go beyond Bangladesh sea territory increased recently.

Wednesday's tragedy comes less than a fortnight after a boat with over 135 passengers capsized in the Bay of Bengal near Shah Porir Island in Teknaf close to Bangladesh's southeastern border with Myanmar, leaving an unknown number of people missing.

Their destination was also Malaysia.

Editor: An
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