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* UN refugee agency commends Sri Lanka Navy for rescuing Myanmar nationals
Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 08:57 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Feb 23, Colombo: The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) commended the Sri Lanka Navy for rescuing 32 Myanmar nationals last Saturday and another 138 boat people earlier this month.

In a media briefing in Geneva Friday, the UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic commended the quick action of the Sri Lankan navy in rescuing the group of 32 Myanmar nationals and providing them immediate medical attention.

Mahecic said the UNHCR was concerned about the growing number of people dying in the Bay of Bengal after setting out by boat in search of safety and better lives in other countries, including desperate ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar.

He said the UNHCR was greatly saddened by this latest terrible ordeal and added that while UNHCR was still gathering data from 2012 on deaths at sea, "It is clear that the Indian Ocean has become for people fleeing their countries one of the deadliest stretches of water in the world."

In the latest rescue, the survivors have said that they have tossed out around 98 bodies of the refugees who died in the migration attempt into the sea.

Sri Lanka Navy on February 02 rescued a group consisting of 127 Bangladeshis and 11 Myanmar Nationals who had been stranded at sea for 10 days. The group included 132 men, 3 women and 3 children.

Sri Lanka Navy medical personnel provided emergency medical treatment and food to the rescued migrants who were in various stages of dehydration. However, one male had died in the ordeal.

The Spokesman said UNHCR is seeking independent access to the survivors to assess their situation and needs.

Amid reports that some countries push back refugee boats, the refugee agency urged the states in the region to keep their borders open to people in need of international protection and to offer assistance and protection until solutions can be found.

"We urge states to agree protocols for the safe and quick disembarkation of rescued passengers and the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance. Mechanisms must be in place to assess the needs of, and solutions for, different groups, including access to UNHCR for those in need of international protection," the spokesman said.

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