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An Overloaded Boat Carrying at Least 70 Migrants Has Capsized Off Malaysia

As Europe tries to find a way to solve the migrant crisis on its doorstep, at least 14 migrants have died when their boat sank in Southeast Asia.
September 3, 2015, 4:10pm
Photo by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement/EPA

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While Europe comes to terms with the magnitude of the migrant and refugee crisis on its borders, another tragedy has struck today, this time in Southeast Asia where an overloaded boat carrying dozens of people capsized off the west coast of Malaysia.

Maritime authorities have stated that the ship, believed to have carried at least 70 Indonesian migrants, left Sabak Bernam, in Malaysia's Selangor State, and was heading for Sumatra in Indonesia. It has been reported that at least 14 people, 13 of them women, have died.

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While 19 people have been rescued so far, Captain Robert Teh Geok Chuan of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency has warned that the death toll could rise: "We fear the casualty numbers will rise as it's been several hours since the boat sank."

A photograph released by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency today showing a body of an Indonesian capsized boat victim carried by rescuers at Hutan Melintang jetty in Perak, Malaysia.

In June 2014, two boats capsized off Malaysia within two days, leaving many Indonesian migrants missing. The boats were carrying the migrants back to Indonesia from Malaysia for Ramadan, as reported by the BBC.

Thousands of Indonesian migrants travel to Malaysia to seek work on construction sites, factories, and in the domestic services.

Related: 'We Were Shocked by the Cruelty': Suspected Migrant Mass Graves Found in Malaysia 

This year, Southeast Asia has seen thousands of migrants undertaking dangerous journeys across the seas to seek refuge or to find work. According to the International Organization for Migration, in the first quarter of 2015, an estimated 25,000 migrated by boat in the region.

Later that year, dozens of suspected human trafficking camps were discovered near Malaysia's border with Thailand, as well as 139 suspected migrant graves.

As crackdowns on traffickers were launched by the Thai government this year, the migrant crisis in the region intensified. In May, boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted minority group branded stateless in Myanmar, and Bangladeshi migrants, were left abandoned at sea by traffickers, while neighboring countries turned away the boats.

Related: Thousands of Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis Could Currently Be Adrift at Sea

Reuters contributed to this report