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Migrant Crisis: Migrant Offshore Aid Station to Begin Mission in Andaman Sea

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

File Photo of Rohingya and other survivors of dangerous boat voyages from Burma and Bangladesh during the migrant crisis in 2015.

File Photo of Rohingya and other survivors of dangerous boat voyages from Burma and Bangladesh during the migrant crisis in 2015.

Feb 26 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh) - Global search and rescue charity, Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), will begin a new mission in the Andaman Sea and adjacent areas on March 3 to track, monitor and, if needed, provide search and rescue of refugees or migrants.

The M.Y. Phoenix and its crew will coordinate with local coast guards, navies, local NGOs, experts and the media to track, monitor and, if needed, provide search and rescue in coordination with the responsible authorities.

It will use long-distance drones to measure movements of ships that may be transporting refugees or migrants, said a MOAS statement today.

In meetings between MOAS principals and various local and national government authorities, it was agreed that preventing loss of life at sea was a high priority.

“The task of the M.Y. Phoenix will be to observe and analyse irregular movements at sea with the goal of supporting local stakeholders in providing an enhanced life-saving response.

“Our aim is to generate a better understanding of the movements by the refugees and migrants and be ready to assist in cases where there is an imminent threat to loss of life,” said MOAS founder Christopher Catrambone.

The move comes following last year’s shocking discoveries of some 200 remains of human bodies – believed to be of Rohingyas of Myanmar and migrants of Bangladesh – from the hilly jungles of Thai-Malaysian borders in May and June.

Several thousand refugees and migrants had been on board in the sea, and the neighbouring countries – Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia – first denied to accept those. Later, however, they accepted amid global pressures.

Some 370 people – Rohingya of Myanmar and Bangladeshis — are believed to have died in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea last year, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

In 2015, an estimated 33,600 refugees and migrants of various nationalities across the region had taken to smugglers’ boats, including 32,600 in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, where the bulk of the passengers had been Rohingya and Bangladeshi, it said.

Nearly 170,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis are estimated to have made the dangerous journey from the Bay of Bengal since 2012.

MOAS will sail out in early March and remain at sea for a minimum of four weeks. At the end of this period MOAS will review its findings and funding provisions with stakeholders, the statement said.

MOAS is a registered NGO based in Malta founded by American entrepreneur Christopher Catrambone and his Italian wife Regina. Since late 2014, MOAS has used the M.Y. Phoenix to locate and rescue almost 13,000 people from the Mediterranean Sea.

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