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Mixed Maritime Movements in South-East Asia: 2015

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  • In 2015, mixed maritime movements in South-East Asia were characterized by two distinct phases: from January to May, when the volume crossing the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea was significantly greater than during the same period in previous years; and from June to December, when such movements all but disappeared following the abandonment of thousands of refugees and migrants at sea in May

  • Some 1,600 refugees and migrants were estimated to have departed by sea from the Bay of Bengal in the second half of 2015, 96% less than in the second half of 2014. By contrast, the 31,000 departures estimated in the first half of 2015 were 34% higher than in the first half of 2014.

  • Refugees familiar with the route told UNHCR in interviews that the sharp decline in departures in the second half of 2015 was a result of increased scrutiny by—and of—authorities at both departure and arrival points and harsher conditions upon arrival, as demonstrated by the discovery of mass graves and the continued detention in Malaysia of the hundreds of refugees who disembarked in May.

  • In total, approximately 33,600 refugees and migrants travelled through South-East Asia in mixed maritime movements in 2015, including approximately 1,000 who either crossed the Strait of Malacca or attempted to reach Australia from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Viet Nam.

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  • Mixed maritime movements originating from the Bay of Bengal in particular continued to result in scores of deaths at a fatality rate three times higher than in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2015, approximately 370 refugees and migrants who departed from the Bay of Bengal are estimated to have died before reaching land, mostly from starvation, dehydration, disease, and abuse by people smugglers.