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300 'boat people' stuck in Andaman island

world Updated: Jul 20, 2009 13:24 IST

IANS
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Over 300 people rescued from their sinking boats and detained on Andaman island for the past many months have nowhere to go as countries India say they belong to do not want them.

After the Indian Coast Guard rescued the Malaysia-bound people from their engine-less boats off the Andaman Island, diplomatic efforts to send them back home have not succeeded so far.

Bangladesh says it will take only 149 of them, identified as citizens by its home ministry.

"India is putting pressure on Bangladesh," New Age newspaper said on Monday after Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty met Acting Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mirajul Quayes.

Chakravarty requested that Bangladesh take them all back, but Dhaka has refused.

There is also a Myanmar angle to the misery of the 'boat people'. A number of Rohingyas, the Muslim tribals on the western side of the Arakan ranges, have been fleeing the country to escape from the present regime.

While some board boats provided by unscrupulous touts promising them jobs, thousands have fled to Bangladesh.

Quayes told the Indian envoy that he could not take back the Rohingya refugees stranded on the Andamans as Dhaka was in the diplomatic process with Yangon to resolve the long-standing issue.

Earlier in March, Bangladesh brought home at least 49 of its nationals who had been stranded on the Andamans for more than two months.

The movement of "boat people" in search of jobs in distant lands, being stranded on the high seas is a regular occurrence involving people of South Asia.

A recent report said Malaysia was the conduit point for South and Southeast Asians travelling illegally to Singapore and Australia.

According to the newspaper, officials of the foreign and home ministries said that between December 2008 and January 2009, the Indian Coast Guard rescued at least 300 people from near-death from a sinking engine-less boat.

"They were forced aboard and set adrift with scanty amount of food and drink allegedly by Thai law enforcers after they made an abortive attempt to go to Malaysia in search of jobs.

Indian officials then claimed those people were from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

"Apart from those rescued people, India also included another 49 people and sent a list of 349 people to Dhaka with a request to take back all those," said an official in Dhaka.

India repeated its request when the top brass of the border guards, Border Security force (BSF) and the Bangladesh rifles (BDR), met for their bi-annual interaction last week.