VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has strongly called on the international community to help the scores of migrants who are currently trapped after attempting to cross the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
While around 3,000 migrants have managed to make their way to Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand, thousands more are believed to be stranded in the middle of the ocean.
“I continue to follow with great concern and suffering in my heart the stories of numerous refugees in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea,” the Pope said during his May 24 Regina Caeli address.
The migrants who remain stranded at sea were being transported by human traffickers. They were then abandoned on the boats by their smugglers, amid crackdowns by Thailand’s government.
According to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), some 2,000 people are stranded in boats in the Bay of Bengal and another 1,500 in the Andaman Sea.
In a May 21 statement by the U.N. special papporteurs on migrants, Indonesia and Malaysia have said they would take in 7,000 migrants and asylum seekers stranded on the sea.
About half of the migrants are reportedly from Bangladesh. The rest are Rohingya Muslims escaping persecution in Burma.
“I express my appreciation for the efforts made by those countries that have expressed their willingness to welcome these persons, who are confronting grave sufferings and dangers,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope then urged the international community to offer humanitarian aid.
The Holy Father’s remarks come amid reports of mass graves found in Malaysia on the border with Thailand, believed to contain the bodies of smuggled migrants.
According to the United Nations, more than 120,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar in the past three years.