The Burmese government has confirmed via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 10 August the repatriation of 159 verified Bangladesh nationals. The boatpeople were handed over on Monday to the Bangladeshi side of the border after a flag meeting in Taung Pyo [Let We].
The Burmese navy intercepted the boat, carrying more than 200 migrants off the coast of Maungdaw, in May.
The handover was initially scheduled for 30 July, but was postponed due to flooding and landslides in much of Burma, state media reported.
Deputy Director of Maungdaw District Immigration Office Saw Naing oversaw the transfer of the illegal migrants to Bangladesh’s commanding officer of the Number 17 Border Guard Battalion of Cox’s Bazaar.
The latest repatriation to Bangladesh brings the total to 501 persons from two rescued boats over four separate occasions.
In June, an additional 150 stranded migrants were repatriated from Maungdaw, in northwest Arakan State. Burmese navy personal found their ship adrift off the Arakanese coast. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned the migrants in May, calling the boatpeople “mentally sick” for fleeing their homes, citing the negative impact their actions have on Bangladesh’s international reputation.
In recent years, thousands of economic and persecuted ethnic migrants, often Rohingya from Burma and Bangladesh, have fled their homes via dangerous sea voyages through the Bay of Bengal.
A recent crackdown by Thai authorities has stymied people traffickers by blocking the most-used routes, resulting in many would-be migrants or boatpeople finding themselves abandoned at sea or returned to their point of departure.
Naypyidaw insists that the majority of boat migrants, including those identified as Rohingya, are Bangladesh nationals. Ongoing tensions, which broke out in violence in 2012, between the ethnic minority and Buddhist nationals continue to displace tens of thousands. The Rohingya are currently denied citizenship in Burma.