By Joseph Sipalan |Reuters
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia on Monday detained 269 Rohingya migrants when they tried to enter the country on a damaged boat off the holiday island of Langkawi, authorities said.
The Southeast Asian country, which does not recognise refugee status, has been a favoured destination for ethnic Rohingya who fled a 2017 military-led crackdown in Myanmar and more recently squalid conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Acting on a tip-off received a day earlier, Malaysian authorities intercepted a boat ferrying the Rohingya in the pre-dawn hours of Monday off Langkawi off the northwestern corner of the Malaysian peninsula.
“An inspection of their boat found 216 Rohingya migrants and the body of one female illegal immigrant. Further inspections found that the boat was deliberately damaged…, making it unfit to be turned back,” Malaysia’s National Task Force on border patrol said in a statement.
Before the boat was intercepted, 53 migrants had jumped into the sea in an attempt to evade arrest, the statement said, but were detained by the Malaysian coast guard once they reached shore.
It said the migrants had been provided sufficient food and clean water, and on humanitarian grounds were allowed to come ashore on Langkawi where they since been detained.
The task force said a total of 396 illegal migrants, 108 boat skippers and 11 people smugglers had been detained this year as of June 6, while 140 migrants, six skippers and 22 boats had been turned back from Malaysia’s borders.
In April, Malaysian authorities detained 202 people believed to be ethnic Rohingya after the boat they were on was found adrift off Langkawi.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Mark Heinrich)