At least 15 Rohingya refugees drowned and dozens more were missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Bangladesh on Tuesday, according to coast guard officials.
The boat carried 130 people, many of whom were refugees in Bangladesh’s Rohingya camps, Hamidul Islam, a coast guard official, told Reuters. Seventy people were rescued; the 15 dead are women and children, Islam said.
The boat was likely headed for Malaysia, officials told the BBC. Rights groups say long-dormant smuggling routes have re-emerged on the Bay of Bengal as Rohingya look to leave behind years-long persecution in Myanmar and growing restrictions in Bangladesh’s packed camps.
Nearly one million Rohingya live in the refugee camps, which swelled after a Myanmar military purge pushed more than 700,000 people into Bangladesh in 2017.
While regional smuggling routes were once dominated by men, rights monitors say more women and children are now taking these risky journeys. Read our recent reporting exploring this trend: Why Rohingya women and girls are risking dangerous smuggling routes.
– Irwin Loy