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102 migrant men stranded on an island belonging to Myanmar for almost a month were discovered and rescued by Myanmar's Navy between June 30 and July 12, according to local media. Smugglers reportedly left the men on the island in the southernmost region of Tanintharyi in early June.
A report by Myanmar state media outlet Global New Light says all the migrants on the island are Bengali, from neighboring Bangladesh.
"Some said they were forcibly taken from their country" the report says, "while others reported having been enticed by human traffickers to work in Malaysia."
In May, it was estimated that more than 60,000 people had taken to the open sea in Southeast Asia in pursuit of better lives, including Muslim Rohingya fleeing systematic persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis fleeing poverty.
The majority of Rohingya are rendered stateless under a 1982 law which denies their claim to Burmese — now Myanmar — citizenship. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, the Myanmar government and society "openly considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from what is now Bangladesh and not a distinct "national race" of Burma." Official statements refer to them as "Bengali", the "so-called Rohingya" or "kalar," a racial slur.
Human Rights Watch also describes the attacks on Rohingya communities in the Arakan region, which began in 2012, as tantamount to "crimes against humanity carried out as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing."
The report by Global New Light says that the navy will continue to search the area and will send the "victims back to their home country," reiterating the statement released by the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlining their strategy to address the migrant crisis. After authorities verify their nationality, "they will be handed over to their country of origin".
Officials from the Bangladesh embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, told Reuters that the Myanmar government had not contacted them about the migrants they found on the island.
In May, Myanmar's navy reportedly discovered a boat carrying 700 migrants, adrift in the Andaman sea. According to the latest report by the United Nations, at least 1,200 migrants are still at sea. Many other migrants have washed up on Thai, Indonesian or Malaysian shores.
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