Sri Lanka Navy’s launching of a rescue operation to save a group of Myanmar nationals last week has been commended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Sunday Observer newspaper reported.
“UNHCR is greatly saddened by this latest ordeal and commends the quick action of the Sri Lanka Navy in rescuing this group and providing immediate medical attention,” the UN agency’s spokesman Andrej Mahecic told journalists in Geneva.
Sri Lanka Navy rescued over 30 survivors from the Myanmar vessel while around 90 believed to have died.
All survivors have been held in a detention centre in Sri Lanka after medical treatment at the Karapitiya hospital in Galle in the southern province.
UNHCR is ready to support the Sri Lankan authorities in assisting refugees among them if they are in need of international protection, he said.
In order to prevent the rising numbers of people killed trying to cross the Indian Ocean in smugglers’ boats, the UN agency is calling for urgent action concerning the members of Myanmar Rohingya community’s crossing the Indian ocean in an attempt to flee the country.
“It is clear that the Indian Ocean has become one of the deadliest stretches of water in the world for people fleeing their countries,” the spokesman said.
Almost 500 out of 13,000 people, who left on smugglers’ boats in 2012, had died at sea, when their boats broke down or capsized in the Bay of Bengal, the UN agency estimates.
According to UNHCR, the recent weeks have seen an increase of women and children among smuggled passengers, while men usually crossed, signalling growing desperation and lack of future prospects.
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