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Myanmar sends 155 more boat people to Bangladesh

(Photo: Getty Image)

By Joshua Carroll
July 24, 2015

State media says migrants returned after nationalities verified by both countries

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar’s immigration authorities have sent 155 people to neighboring Bangladesh after they were found adrift in boats in late May, state media reported Thursday, amid a regional crisis that has seen thousands abandoned at sea by people smugglers.

The migrants were returned following a strict process to verify their nationalities, according to officials from both countries.

“The handing over ceremony took place at friendship bridge between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” the state-backed Global New Light of Myanmar reported.

The group were handed to Bangladesh’s Border Guard Battalion by a team led by the district immigration officer for Maungdaw, a district in western Rakhine state, the report added.

Bangladesh says the group were among 528 rescued from Myanmar waters.

Thousands of others, mostly Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution and Bangladeshis escaping extreme poverty, were left adrift in May.

The crisis began when Thai authorities launched a crackdown against people-smuggling camps, which scared traffickers into abandoning their human cargo at sea.

Myanmar has been blamed as the main source of the crisis because of its treatment of the Rohingya, a group of roughly 1 million who have fled from the country’s north-western shores in their tens of thousands since being targeted in sectarian violence in 2012.

The Myanmar government has denied responsibility, and instead blamed the traffickers. It has also been accused of seeking to deflect blame to Bangladesh by exaggerating the proportion of migrants in the crisis who come from that country.

Myanmar does not officially recognise the Rohingya ethnicity, and refers to members of the group as “Bengalis” in order to imply they are interlopers from Bangladesh.

Ultranationalist Buddhists have protested in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon against their government harboring people from the boats.

Bangladeshi authorities will continue verifying the rest of the people found on the boats on May 21 and 29, the New Light report added.

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