Burmese authorities repatriated 48 Bangladeshi victims of human trafficking on 2 December, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The group had been held in immigration detention for several months.
The Burmese navy apprehended more than 1,000 migrants between May and July this year off the coasts of Arakan State and Irrawaddy and Tenasserim divisions. Since then, Burma has worked with neighbouring states, including Bangladesh, to verify the nationalities of the migrants.
The 48 were transferred to the Bangladeshi border guard force at the checkpoint in Taungpyo, in northern Arakan State’s Maungdaw, according to a local immigration official.
Tuesday’s action brings the total of migrants from three separate boat interceptions to 777, in seven batches, according to state media. Burmese authorities say they will continue attempts to identify the origins of the migrants that remain detained.
In June an Arakan court found 20 guilty on human trafficking charges. They had been arrested when one of the boats, carrying 208 aboard, was intercepted in May.
“There were 48 people repatriated [on Wednesday] – all our senior officials in Taungpyo for the hand over and they are not yet back,” the official said at the Maungdaw immigration office.
The returning migrants will be moved to a temporary camp in Cox’s Bazar Cultural Centre for “interrogation”, according to a police officer quoted in Bangladeshi paper The Daily Star.
Southeast Asian nations have agreed to help vulnerable “boat people” stranded at sea following last year’s crisis that saw more than 4,000 migrants land in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma and Bangladesh following a Thai crackdown on people-smuggling gangs.
On 4 December, Bangkok will host the second Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean, attended by five of the most affected nations – including Burma and Bangladesh. The conference aims to address the root causes of transnational migration in the region, and to develop multilateral plans to combat people smuggling and human trafficking.