Dispatch from the Andaman Sea
MOAS is now into the third week of its observation mission in the Andaman Sea, where M/Y Phoenix is monitoring maritime developments in the Rohingya refugee crisis.
The mission was launched on April 3rd, following reports that refugees are attempting to flee Myanmar by sea in unsafe vessels and dangerous conditions. Having departed Sri Lanka on April 23rd, the Phoenix has now covered 2,560 nautical miles, or just over 4,700km.
The first leg of our trip took us across the Bay of Bengal from Galle, Sri Lanka to Langkawi, Malaysia, where we stopped after a week to refuel, restock provisions and embark press. The second week at sea was spent scanning our operational area off the coast of Thailand and monitoring the ship’s radar for objects appearing without an AIS (Automatic Information System) response.
All unidentified objects have been thoroughly investigated, both using high-powered binoculars and by altering the ship’s route as required. To the 8th of May, we have investigated 292 contacts in total: most of these have turned out to be small fishing vessels, similar to Rohingya boats in size and shape, but distinguishable mainly by type of equipment and number of people on board.
After a second stop in Langkawi to embark a new group of journalists, the Phoenix is now on its way back up the coast of Thailand. As before, our crew is on watch 24 hours a day, divided into six shifts lasting four hours each.
Although observation is the main aim of this mission, MOAS is fully prepared to carry out rescue operations, should an emergency arise: the Phoenix is travelling with an experienced SAR team on board, including medical personnel. In order to maintain readiness, our crew has been using specialised RHIBs (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats) to conduct rescue drills.
Our Director, Regina Catrambone, is currently on board the Phoenix. She says: “We have seen the consequences of global indifference in the bodies of children, women and men rescued by MOAS in previous years, both in the Mediterranean and in the Aegean. As the only NGO currently at sea to monitor the Rohingya refugee crisis, we feel it is our duty to persevere with this mission, to ensure the Rohingya exodus from Myanmar does not result in the same catastrophic events witnessed elsewhere.”
MOAS calls on international humanitarian organisations to support this maritime mission, and on regional governments to uphold the spirit of the 2016 Bali Declaration by refraining from push-back operations and disembarking refugees at the nearest place of safety. Our mission is currently scheduled to end on May 20th.
If you would like to support our work in the Andaman Sea, please donate to our special appeal or write to us at [email protected] to request a fundraising pack. Spread the word about our mission by sharing our stories on social media, or sign up to our newsletter at the bottom of this page for regular updates.