‘I thought I’d die on that ship’: Mom recalls the horrors of the month floating at sea | CNN


Aceh, Indonesia

Hatemon Nesa cries as she hugs her 5-year-old daughter, Umme Salima, at a shelter in Indonesia’s Aceh province. Their faces were haggard. Their eyes were gloomy after that. drifted at sea for several weeks. on a boat with little food or water

“My skin was rotting and my bones were visible,” Nesa said. “I thought I was going to die on that ship.”

Nesa also cried for her seven-year-old daughter, Umme Habiba, who she said she was forced to leave in Bangladesh. She was unable to pay more than the $1,000 demanded by traffickers to send her and her youngest child to Malaysia. “My heart is burning because of my daughter,” she said.

Nesa and Umme Salima were among about 200 people. Rohingyamembers of the persecuted Muslim minority Who started his dangerous journey at the end of November from Cox’s Bazar. A sprawling refugee camp in Bangladesh. It is crowded with about a million people fleeing genocide by the Myanmar army.

But soon after they left. the engine is off Turn what was supposed to be a 7-day voyage into a month-long trial at sea. experience the elements in an open-top wooden boat survived the rain and only three daily food cost

Nesa said she saw a starving man jumping into the water desperately looking for food. But they never came back and She saw a baby die after receiving salt water from the sea.

weeks have passed Passenger’s family and aid agencies plead with the government in many countries to help them – but their cries have been ignored.

Then, on December 26, the boat was rescued by Indonesian fishermen and local authorities in Aceh. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), of the approximately 200 passengers who boarded the ship, only 174 survived, with about 26 dead on board or missing at sea. presumed to have died

Babar Baloch, a spokesman for the agency in Asia, said after calming down during COVID. The number of fugitives returns to pre-Covid levels. Last year, about 2,500 worthless ships sailed and as many as 400 died, making 2022 one of the deadliest in a decade for Rohingya fleeing Mong Kok. bazaar

“These are death traps where once you go in…you end up losing your life,” he said.

Umme Habiba remained at Cox's Bazar where she was unable to go to school.

Nesa and Salima’s journey begins on November 25 from a crowded refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. In which she said her children could not go to school. giving her little hope for their future.

Nesa said she carried about 2kg of rice on the trip. But shortly after the ship left the port The engine shuts off and they begin to drift.

“Famine because there is no food. We saw a fishing boat nearby and tried to get close,” she said, crying as she recalled the horror. “We jumped into the water and swam close to the boat, but in the end we couldn’t.”

A rickety wooden boat carrying Hatemon Nesa and her daughter Umme Salima in Aceh province.  Indonesia

during December As the ship was downed aimlessly in the Bay of Bengal, UNHCR said it had been sighted near India and Sri Lanka. But such agencies in different countries “Constant neglect” It begs to intervene.

CNN has reached out to the Indian and Sri Lankan Navy for comment, but has not yet. get a response last month The Sri Lanka Navy said in a statement that its crew had made a “deep effort” to rescue another boat carrying 104 Rohingya, including many women and children, who had fled Bangladesh.

On Dec. 18, Nesa’s brother Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, who is in Cox’s Bazar, shared with CNN an audio clip of the heartbreaking phone call he received from one of the refugees on Nesa’s boat.

“We’re dying here,” the man said over a satellite phone, according to the record. “We haven’t eaten for eight or ten days. We are starving.”

Hatemon Nesa and her five-year-old daughter Umme Salima at a shelter in Aceh Province, Indonesia.

NESA said the boat driver and another crew jumped into the ocean in search of food. But they never came back. “I think they were eaten by fish in the sea,” she said.

The other 12 men entered the water as they grabbed a long rope attached to the boat in an attempt to grab something to eat. but when others On the boat trying to pull them back in, the rope broke, Nesa said. “They couldn’t get back on the boat.”

While every country has an obligation under international law to help people in danger at sea, Quick Actions Don’t Always Happen This is particularly the case in relation to Rohingya refugees. According to UNHCR’s Baloch

“I think everyone will agree that as human beings we have a responsibility that you want to save one life in distress. Let alone hundreds of people dying,” said Baloch. “(Nearby states) must take action to help these desperate people. It must be a coordinated action by all states in the region.”

Nesa and Umme Salima It was one of 174 emaciated survivors shown on land-based video for the first time in several weeks in late December. Some instantly collapsed on the sands of Aceh Beach, too weak to stand.

They were among the more fortunate – UNHCR believes another 180 people have been presumed dead and missing at sea on other ships since then. early December when residents stop communicating with their families

The survivors of the Nesa ship are receiving medical treatment in Aceh, however it is not clear what will happen to them in the coming weeks and months.

Rohingya refugees rest after being moved to a makeshift shelter following the ship's arrival in Laveng township.  Aceh Province on December 27, 2022

Indonesia is not a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention. and a lack of national refugee protection structures, according to UNHCR.

For those found to be refugees, UNHCR will begin looking at one of several solutions. This includes resettlement to a third country or voluntary repatriation. If the person can “Return safe and with dignity.”

This marks the beginning of a new chapter for the crowd of passengers living in overcrowded refugee camps. unhygienic and unsafe in Bangladesh for many years. After escaping systemic discrimination for decades The brutality and sexual violence prevalent in their home country of Myanmar.

“These Rohingya refugees are stateless, persecuted and know little about peace,” UNHCR’s Baloch said.

The international community still has a lot to do for the persecuted groups. which had to suffer on a scale that could hardly be imagined. he added

For Nesa, the hope remained that she might one day meet her other daughter again.

“I’m dying. (in Bangladesh),” she said. “Allah has given me a new life… My children deserve a proper education. That’s all I want.”

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