About 500 people perished in the Indian Ocean last
year after leaving their countries by boat, making it the deadliest
sea for refugees and migrants, the United Nations said Tuesday.
"This is an alarmingly high number of lives lost and begs a far more concerted effort by countries of the region both with regard to addressing the causes and to preventing lives being lost," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.
Many of the victims were Rohingyas, a Muslim minority group from Myanmar who were the target of communal clashes last year. The Rohingyas, who are stateless in Myanmar, have been victimized by human traffickers and have been unwelcome in neighbouring countries for years.
"Push-backs, denial of disembarkation and boats adrift for weeks will not solve a regional problem that clearly needs better, more joined-up and more compassionate approaches by everyone," Guterres said.
The commissioner's office will host a regional meeting in Jakarta next month on the increase in "irregular movements by sea" and a rising death toll.
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