Maungdaw , Myanmar: Some 150 migrants found adrift in a boat off Myanmar´s coast were set Monday for transfer to neighbouring Bangladesh, an immigration official said, returning them to homes many tried to flee months ago.
Southeast Asia´s migrant crisis unfurled at the start of May, leaving thousands from Bangladesh and Myanmar’s Rohingya minority trapped at sea.
Since then, around 4,500 of them have returned to shore, but the UN estimates around 2,000 others are still on the water.
Nearly 1,000 have been taken to Myanmar´s western Rakhine state, which borders Bangladesh, after being found by Myanmar´s navy in two boats in the Bay of Bengal.
Neither nation initially showed a willingness to accept them and rights groups are concerned some could be pushed to the wrong side of the border.
But they now appear to have agreed on the nationality of some of the rescued migrants, who come from a first boatload of more than 200 found in late May.
"Bangladesh will transfer 150 migrants after a friendly meeting between two countries," Saw Naing, deputy director of Maungdaw district immigration told a foreign news agency.
The group — all men — moved from a holding camp on Monday to a bridge over the Naf River that separates the two countries.
They were given new, clean clothes, making a marked contrast to the conditions they were found in — unwashed, bare-chested and hungry after weeks on an overcrowded boat.
Myanmar initially said all 208 on the first boat they intercepted were from Bangladesh, leading to fears it may try to deport unwanted Rohingya Muslims, some 1.3 million of whom live in Rakhine State.
The country has yet to clearly state what the origins of the remaining passengers are or what will happen to migrants who are not deemed to be from Bangladeshi territory.
The fate of 733 other migrants found on another boat on May 19 has also yet to be decided, with officials from both countries still in the process of verifying their nationalities… Agencies