Bangladesh rescues 396 Rohingya drifting at sea for weeks

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Rohingya refugees react after being rescued in Teknaf near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Thursday, April 16, 2020. Bangladesh's coast guard has rescued 382 starving Rohingya refugees who had been drifting at sea for weeks after failing to reach Malaysia, officials said Thursday. (AP Photo/Suzauddin Rubel)

DHAKA – Bangladesh's coast guard has rescued 396 starving Rohingya refugees who had been drifting at sea for weeks after failing to reach Malaysia, officials said Thursday.

The U.N. refugee agency received them from the authorities, UNHCR said in a statement.

The refugees, including many women and children, were attempting to land on Bangladesh's coast in the Teknaf area in Cox’s Bazar late Wednesday night, said Lt. Cmdr. M. Sohel Rana, the local head of the coast guard.

Officials gave varying accounts of whether those rescued had been among the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who are living in refugee camps in Bangladesh after fleeing ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar.

Rana said the refugees started their journey for Malaysia about two months ago and had been drifting at sea for weeks.

“They failed to reach Malaysia and returned,” he said.

A.B.M. Masud Hossain, police superintendent in Cox’s Bazar, said the refugees were lured by traffickers and the owner of the boat was a Myanmar Buddhist. The rescued refugees included 182 women and 64 children, he said.

Others said the refugees were from Bangladesh camps.