As autumn weather in late 2015 caused a decrease in migrant crossings in the Central Mediterranean, MOAS repositioned the Phoenix to the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. From October 2015 to May 2016, the vessel monitored this South East Asian sea route, where thousands of Rohingya people were attempting to reach a better life.
Refugees and migrants were travelling 1,500 nautical miles south from the bay in search of hope and jobs in Malaysia. Many of these people were lured aboard trawlers and held for ransom. In some cases, when they made it to landfall, they were again held for ransom. Unlike other areas of the world, the Andaman route generated numerous migrant fatalities from the brutal conditions and murders that occurred both at sea and on land.
Although the International Organization for Migration estimated that the mortality rate on the Andaman route to be 1.2% in 2015, MOAS believes that the death and disappearance rates were much higher, based on research in Rohingya refugee camps, interviews conducted by non-governmental organisations and the lack of independent monitoring.
During our mission in the Andaman Sea, MOAS was able to expand diplomatic relations, while our experienced search and rescue team worked closely with stakeholders in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, India, Malaysia and Indonesia to establish a vital ground network of information-sharing for advocacy around SAR in the region. Our sister organisation, Xchange, also conducted a survey of 1,000 Rohingya people to understand how they perceived migration in the region (the report can be read here).
Currently, MOAS is delivering its 2017 South East Asia mission on land in Bangladesh, providing humanitarian and medical aid to the Rohingya refugees escaping persecution in Myanmar.