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Myanmar to deport migrants, officials say

Myanmar to deport migrants, officials say

A group of migrants recently rescued by Myanmar will be deported to Bangladesh, officials confirmed on May 23, as the United Nations chief called on regional nations to prioritize saving the lives of those still stranded at sea.

Southeast Asia is currently battling an exodus of boat people fleeing persecution and poverty, with up to 2,000 vulnerable migrants thought to be stranded in the Bay of Bengal, many at the mercy of ruthless people smugglers. Most are Muslim Rohingyas from the western Rakhine state in Myanmar, where they are not recognized as citizens and instead referred to as "Bengalis" or illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. More than 3,500 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued off the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh since a Thai crackdown in early May on human-trafficking threw the illicit trade into chaos.

Myanmar has faced increasing international pressure to stem the deluge from its shores and deliver urgent humanitarian relief to thousands still trapped at sea.

On Friday, the country’s navy said they already carried out first rescue of a migrant boat, there are all 208 men are from Bangladesh and will soon be returned there. AFP wasn't able to independently verify where the migrants were from. "We are giving humanitarian assistance to them. After that we will deport them back to the relative country," Zaw Htay, director of the presidential office, told AFP on Saturday. "We have made contact with Bangladeshi border officials on the ground regarding the arrived persons," he added.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said finding and saving the lives of those migrants should be a "top priority". "But when people are drifting on the sea, how we can search and rescue them and provide life saving humanitarian assistance, that is a top priority at this time," he said.

Updated : 2021-09-25 15:26 GMT+08:00