At least 11 dead and dozens more missing after refugee boat capsizes in stormy winter weather off Malaysia

All migrants are from Indonesia, confirm officials

Shweta Sharma
Wednesday 15 December 2021 11:56
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<p>Malaysian authorities recover a capsized boat on the Tanjung Balau Beach in Kota Tinggi, Johor State on 15 December</p>

Malaysian authorities recover a capsized boat on the Tanjung Balau Beach in Kota Tinggi, Johor State on 15 December

At least 11 people were killed after a boat carrying Indonesian refugees capsized in stormy winter weather in the South China Sea off the coast of Malaysia.

Around 25 people are still missing, Malaysian authorities said.

The boat with 50 migrants on board sank around 4.30am on Wednesday off the coast of Tanjung Balau in southeastern Malaysia, announced the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

The maritime agency rescued 14 people following a search and rescue mission. The survivors and the boat were found on a beach in Tanjung Balau along with passengers’ personal belongings like pictures, wallets, bags and clothes.

The survivors were taken to a Malaysian armed forces post in Kota Tinggi, while the dead bodies — seven men and four men — were handed to forensic experts for postmortem examinations.

Meanwhile, the search for more survivors is being carried out through drones and sea routes in a joint operation by the Malaysian armed forces, the quick response force team and the Royal Navy.

Johor maritime operations deputy director Captain Simon Templer Lo Ak Tusa told reporters that all those on board were Indonesians.

“The boat was believed to have travelled from Indonesia and capsized after being hit by strong waves,” he said, urging migrants not to embark on such risky journeys. “We would like to advise people, especially the undocumented migrants... to use valid routes to prevent such incidents from recurring.”

The Indonesian consulate in Johor said that its representatives were at the site of the accident to help identify and manage the remains of the victims.

The accident follows a string of such incidents in the dangerous oceans between Indonesia and Malaysia in recent years, often involving overloaded boats carrying migrants and labourers, seeking a better life in Malaysia. Many of them also involve the Rohingya ethnic group from Myanmar who have faced years of persecution.

Every year, around 100,000 to 200,000 Indonesians travel illegally to Malaysia and many of them end up being recruited by trafficking gangs and subjected to exploitation, according to Anis Hidayah of Migrant CARE, a Jakarta-based non-government organisation.

“They travel to Malaysia by boat and there are so many accidents because they depart at night and arrive early in the morning,” she said, adding that boats often stop before reaching land to avoid detection and require those aboard to swim ashore.

Additional reporting by agencies

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