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India coast guard retrieving bodies of immigrants

India coast guard retrieving bodies of immigrants

Indian officials battled strong winds Wednesday to retrieve the bodies of at least 10 suspected illegal immigrants that washed ashore on the remote Andaman islands, as a search continued for 300 others missing and feared dead after reportedly jumping from their disabled boat.
Coast guard officials discovered the bodies Tuesday but were unable to reach them in a mangrove swamp that is inaccessible by land. Choppy seas and heavy winds hampered an approach by boat, said S.P. Sharma, the coast guard inspector-general on the Indian-ruled islands.
The coast guard rescued 105 people from the rickety wooden boat found drifting off the coast. Two more survivors were found Monday but none since, Sharma said by telephone.
Survivors told Indian authorities that more than 300 people from Bangladesh and Myanmar had jumped from the boat, which had been drifting for 13 days, and tried to swim to shore.
Sharma said they had no independent confirmation of the number of people aboard the boat, but the condition of the rescued survivors was grim.
The overloaded boat, about 65 to 80 feet (20 to 25 meters) long, had no covering to protect passengers from the harsh sun and had inadequate food and water, he said.
"They were dehydrated and some were unconscious," Sharma said. "They were in a state of shock and trauma, both mental and physical."
The boat's mast was gone and it had no engine, he said.
The boat's passengers were apparently heading for Malaysia by way of Thailand, where they were supposed to pick up a guide for the second leg of the journey, Sharma said.
The survivors said they had been detained by Thai authorities for illegally entering Thai waters and then were sent back out to sea. Thai officials have denied turning them back.
Poor Bangladeshis often pay up to $300 to trafficking syndicates to be taken overseas in search of better jobs.
They are sometimes joined by Myanmar refugees, mostly Muslims known as Rohingyas, who have fled from military-ruled Myanmar to Bangladesh.
Malaysia's government estimates there are 500,000 to 700,000 illegal immigrants in the country in addition to more than 2 million legal foreign workers, who mostly work in low-paying menial jobs on construction sites and in restaurants. Rights groups say there are 5 million undocumented workers in the country.


Updated : 2021-03-09 19:04 GMT+08:00