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Myanmar refuses entry to 200 Rohingya refugees, citing COVID-19

Myanmar refuses entry to 200 Rohingya refugees, citing COVID-19
Rohingya migrants receive first aid and food after being rescued at sea, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Thursday. Activists fear hundreds of Rohingya refugees remain stuck at sea as more countries cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason to refuse them entry. Photo courtesy of Bangladesh Coast Guard

April 18 (UPI) -- On Friday Malaysia's air force confirmed it had denied entry to a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya people, days after it was reported that dozens of people died onboard a boat that was refused entry to the country and left adrift.

Officials said Friday's move was made to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country.

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On Wednesday the Bangladesh Coast Guard said it had rescued nearly 400 Rohingya refugees in the Bay of Bengal, on a boat that had left Bagladesh for Myanmar but was also turned away from the country.

At least 32 people died aboard the ship, according to Bangladesh Coast Guard spokesman Hamidul Islam. Their bodies were thrown overboard.

According to Bangladesh authorities, rescued refugees -- most of whom were women and children and many of whom were starving or dehydrated -- have been handed to United Nations Refugee Agency to be quarantined for 14 days.

According to Amnesty International, there may be additional boats full of Rohingya stuck at sea this week, and they fear more refugees will remain trapped at sea and unable to disembark anywhere as countries cite the spread of the novel coronavirus to justify refusing to allow them entry.

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