News in Brief 29 September 2017 – Geneva (AM)

At least 60 Rohingya feared dead in boat tragedy "easily in sight of land"

At least 23 Myanmar refugees are now believed to have drowned and another 40 are missing and presumed dead after their boat sunk in the Bay of Bengal overnight, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday.

There were 17 survivors.

In an update to journalists, the UN agency reported that the vessel had been at sea for two days before going down in rough seas, "easily in sight of land."

The 80 passengers were attempting to get to Bangladesh after fleeing a security operation in Rakhine state in Myanmar.

Spokesperson Joel Millman said that there were 50 children on board:

"Survivors described being at sea all night, having no food, and that the captain of the vessel who was a Bangladshi national as we understand it was trying to avoid sea patrols to not have the voyage interdicted. At one point he chose to anchor the vessel but that proved to be a fatal mistake as the rough seas were much worse than he supposed. This was easily in sight of land."

IOM and other agencies say that more than half-a-million refugees have now arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar in the last month.

Tens of thousands are still living in the open with little shelter, food or access to healthcare.

Almost one in five is acutely malnourished and 300,000 of the new arrivals are children.

In Myanmar's Rakhine state, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that its operations remain "severely disrupted" in the north.

Human Rights Council extends international fact-finding mission to Myanmar

Staying with Myanmar, the UN Human Rights Council has extended the term of an international fact-finding mission to the country.

The 47-member body agreed to the extension by consensus on the last day of its current session in Geneva.

Under the terms of the mandate, three UN-appointed investigators are expected to establish "facts and circumstances" surrounding reported abuses in Myanmar � and "in particular Rakhine State", a reference to the military operation that has sparked an exodus of mainly Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh in the last month.

Of more than 30 other resolutions before the Council, Member States also agreed to discuss violations of children's rights in Syria.

They also prepared for a vote to establish a probe into the conflict in Yemen.

A late amendment to the text of the resolution proposed establishing an "International Eminent Group of Experts" and not a Commission of Inquiry, which had been sought originally.

420,000 Burundi refugees remain in dire need of aid

And finally, more than 400,000 Burundian refugees are in "dire" need of support amid chronic underfunding for aid agencies and their partners, the UN warned on Friday.

Several countries bordering Burundi have taken in refugees since violence erupted in the Great Lakes state, after President Pierre Nkurunziza won a third term in office in 2015.

Those who've fled Burundi have been forced to endure food and water shortages amid a lack of aid money.

Here's UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic:

"What is means for the people on the ground is a constant need to prioritise and rearrange things to ensure in order to ensure at least the lifesaving activities remain intact. But there is a human cost attached to it, there is simply not enough to go around88,000 people are still living under plastic sheeting, they are obviously vulnerable to heavy rains and so on, so this clearly this poses great challenges for the humanitarians working on the ground."

UNHCR has warned that conditions in shelters remain overcrowded, and that the threat of disease is high.

Of the seven countries neighbouring Burundi, Tanzania hosts the largest number of refugees, nearly a quarter of a million.

To date, the more than US $400 million dollar appeal is only 19 per cent funded.

Source: United Nations Radio