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Burma sent 155 migrants back to Bangladesh on Wednesday, more than a month after rescuing them from a boat stranded at sea.
Bangladesh said it had agreed to take back the 155, all judged to be economic migrants, after a rigorous process to verify their nationality.
Thousands of migrants, most of them Rohingya Muslims from Burma or economic migrants from Bangladesh, were stranded in Southeast Asian waters in May after a Thai crackdown on people-smuggling led gang bosses to abandon their victims on land and at sea.
The crisis shone a spotlight on the multi-million dollar industry that preys on the desperation of the tens of thousands trying to escape grinding poverty in Bangladesh or persecution in Burma.
“The group of people are the victims of recent human trafficking by sea in the region of Indian Ocean,” Bangladeshi foreign ministry spokesman Arafat Rahman said on Wednesday.
“They were earlier rescued in a group of 528 from a boat in Myanmar waters.”
Bangladesh has now taken back 342 trafficking victims from Burma, including the latest repatriations.
“The repatriation process is a clear manifestation of Bangladesh’s commitment and seriousness in carrying out the repatriation of the verified Bangladeshis within the shortest possible time,” said Rahman.
The 155 were discovered on a boat holding more than 700 men, women and children in the Gulf of Martaban on 29 May. A week later, all of the people aboard had been moved to the western state of Arakan to await repatriation.
Just last week, the Burmese navy discovered 102 men on the southern Burmese island of Saunggauk, all deemed to be of “Bengali” origin, a word commonly used to describe the Muslim Rohingya minority, implying that they belong to neighbouring Bangladesh. The men were handed over to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for repatriation.