Refugee Boat Sinks off Bangladesh, Dozens Missing

Posted November 7th, 2012 at 9:15 am (UTC-5)
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Bangladeshi officials say at least 85 people are missing after an overcrowded boat carrying mostly Rohingya Muslim refugees sank early Wednesday.

Bangladeshi border officials say the wooden boat was headed toward Malaysia when it overturned in the Bay of Bengal. They said several people were rescued by fishing boats in the area, and a rescue mission has been launched to find more survivors.

It is the second time in 10 days that a boat carrying Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh has sunk in the Bay of Bengal. Only a handful of people were rescued after a boat carrying 130 people sank off Burma on October 28.

Survivors of Wednesday's incident say those on the boat had paid traffickers to take them to Malaysia, where they hoped to find jobs. Most were reportedly making the trip illegally without travel documents.

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape deadly communal violence in neighboring Burma. The Burmese government regards the mainly Muslim group as illegal immigrants, denying them citizenship and many basic rights. But the Rohingyas in Bangladesh remain largely in limbo in squalid, overcrowded camps.

The United Nations regards the group as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.