Hundreds abandoned in Andaman Sea; tracing services offered by the American Red Cross

Imagine, all you have is $180.00 dollars to your name and you are facing ill treatment in your country due to your beliefs. You have two children to feed and your spouse just died. If you travel about 11 hours you will be able to meet up with your siblings and begin a more fruitful life with people you know and love. Would you risk the journey? Let us say you do. You and your two children board a ship; the ship makes multiple stops, accepting too many passengers-with little food and little space. You begin to reconsider this journey, but now there is no turning back. Then one day, a speed boat arrives; only welcoming crew members aboard. The crew abandons you, your children and everyone else on board. Imagine this.

The story above is the current situation for many Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. It is estimated that 120,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled in the past 3 years hoping to arrive in Malaysia to escape religious persecution. Currently, it is estimated that 7,000 people are currently lost at sea. Along with the Rohingya Muslims, individuals from Bangladesh have boarded ships in hopes of a better life as well. Though the motivation for boarding the ship is drastically different from the Rohingya Muslims (religion vs. financial), the underlining motivation is consistent; both are and were hoping to gain better opportunities for themselves and their families.

However, the stories of many Bangladeshies are along the lines of being promised economic prosperity in Malaysia, then upon arrival, assigned long work hours and minimum pay. While some Bangladeshies voluntarily board, there are some Bangladeshies that are sold into slavery by someone in their community. Either method of arrival leads to these individuals realizing they have been lied to; but often, it is too late. The two worlds of the Bangladeshies and the Rohingya Muslims meet and they are placed on ships for a minimum of a month; with little food but plenty of physical and emotional abuse. The UN Refugee Agency Periodic Report stated that 25,000 Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshies have boarded smugglers boats from January to March alone.

For some who may not know, this issue has been occurring but recently it has intensified. This has resulted in a crack-down on the smuggling and trafficking networks in Malaysia and Thailand; leading to many boats being stranded at sea out of fear for being caught. This is leading to hundreds of individuals in dire humanitarian situations. With annual revenue of 100 million dollars, this smuggling business is currently booming and there have been many more migrants and refugees being left at sea or arriving to nearby countries; even today. This is concerning many government officials who are witnessing the effects of the current human trafficking network.

Many suggestions have been made, various measures have been taken and more solutions are being established. The main focus currently is to find concrete solutions to interrupting the network and rescuing and feeding those who are stranded at sea and providing the Rohingya Muslims with protective needs and temporary stay and work. There is still a need for more progress and policy makers are working to regain control.

Needless to say, there are many individuals and organizations around the world working to support and assist the victims of the human trafficking network. Specifically, here in the United States the American Red Cross in collaboration with the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) are now accepting tracing request for unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable individuals. The American Red Cross helps families separated internationally when:

  • Families have been separated internationally as a result of war, disaster, migration or other humanitarian emergency.
  • Families have tried normal channels of communication to the extent possible.
  • The family member making the inquiry is able to provide essential information on the sought person.
  • The family member making the inquiry is a relative, who had been in direct contact with the sought person before the crisis occurred.

If you or anyone you know in Cincinnati has lost contact with a family member due to this current event and wants to begin a search please contact The Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Region Chapter’s International Services Coordinator: Kayla Iheukwu at 513-579-3023

This will be the critical link in your community to the vast network of the International Red Cross and Red Crescents around the world; which could lead to re-establishing communication. The chapter coordinator will match you with a trained volunteer caseworker who will initiate a case.

With people around the world being aware of the issue and the resources available there will be opportunity to connect victims and their families to beneficial resources. This would help us be more responsive to the issue while working in our means of impact. If everyone can do what they can, this crisis can decrease in intensity and individuals can receive the humanitarian rights they deserve.


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