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Rohingya refugee crisis: Search & rescue breakthrough

​Their plight drew global outrage. Persecuted at home, Rohingya boatpeople​ braved the seas in search of a better life abroad.

But no matter where they went, there was little respite.

Human smugglers dumped them at sea after a Thai crackdown disturbed long-established smuggling routes.

Other Southeast Asian countries shooed refugee-laden boats away after giving them food and water, in a game of maritime ping-pong.

 More than 7,000 people Rohingya boatpeople are reportedly still stranded at sea. Nearly 3,000 have already swum back to shore or been rescued off the three countries over the past week.

One of them was Roshida (below), who was stuck on a boat for 45 days.

PHOTO: REUTERS

She has since sacrificed everything to go back to her camp in Myanmar, saying:

"To go there - and then to come back - I sold everything: my camp food rations and my house. I have nothing."

She told Reuters that she was crouched for hours on end on board, with her body pressed against the back of the woman.

Beatings were common and she saw two dead people being thrown off another ship.

The crew were also abusive to Roshida's son:

"Once the crew was eating rice and my son started crying for more food. They got angry and burned his arm with a cigarette butt."

She then showed a pink, round scar on her son's arm.

Search and rescue

In contrast with their earlier actions, Malaysia and Indonesia have said they would no longer turn away boatpeople.

Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman announced that "the towing and the shooting (away of boats) is not going to happen."

Following talks with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi and Thailand's Tanasak Patimapragorn, he said:

"We also agreed to offer them temporary shelter provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community."

Myanmar has also sought to provide humanitarian assistance to affected migrants. 

Sources: Reuters, AFP

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