The predominant route of irregular maritime movements in South-East Asia continues to originate in the Bay of Bengal, from where tens of thousands of persons of concern to UNHCR leave Bangladesh and Myanmar by sea in hopes of ultimately reaching Malaysia. Passage along this route takes place yearround, but traditionally increases following the end of the rainy season in October. This bulletin covers developments since October 2014 through the first quarter of 2015, as well as aspects of the Bay of Bengal route that have been further explored in recent interviews.
In the first quarter of 2015, 25,000 people are estimated to have departed in irregular maritime movements from the Bay of Bengal. The departure rate in the first quarter of 2015 was approximately double the departure rate reported in the first quarters of 2013 and 2014.
Based on interviews with those who have reached Thailand and Malaysia, 300 people are estimated to have died at sea while attempting maritime journeys from the Bay of Bengal in the first quarter of 2015—and as many as 620 since October 2014—primarily as a result of starvation, dehydration, and beatings by boat crews. A few interviewees also told of entire boats sinking, but there was no way to verify such reports or if, and how many, lives were lost.
Sexual and gender-based violence continues to be reported by many individuals who have made this journey, as well as an increasing prevalence of possible human trafficking in the form of abductions and marriages arranged without the consent of women whose passage was ultimately paid for by prospective husbands.
25,000 Estimated number of people who departed irregularly by sea from the Bay of Bengal in the first quarter of 2015
300 Estimated deaths at sea among irregular maritime departures from the Bay of Bengal in the first quarter of 2015
USD 90-370 “Boat fare” individuals pay to board a boat in the Bay of Bengal, often without knowing they will have to pay up to USD 2,000 for their freedom upon arrival in Thailand or Malaysia
100% Interest charged by some moneylenders for financing journeys from the Bay of Bengal, to be paid within six months of arrival in Malaysia
Over 5,400 Persons of concern to UNHCR who travelled irregularly by sea in the Asia-Pacific region and are currently in detention facilities Persons of concern to UNHCR in Malaysia presenting with symptoms of beriberi in the first quarter of 2015