More than 300 Sri Lankans, who were rescued at sea off the Spratly Islands after their fishing vessel was damaged and found adrift, have refused to return to the island nation.
They are appealing to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help them settle in a foreign country.
Upon receiving information about a vessel carrying approximately 303 people believed to be Sri Lankans which was in distress in the waters between the Philippines and Vietnam on November 07, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had informed Sri Lanka Navy of the matter.
On November 05, when the vessel was around 258 nautical miles off Vung Tau in the southern coast, its engine room flooded, and the vessel began to drift. There were rough seas at the time, according to reports.
Sri Lanka Navy, having contacted the Myanmar-flagged Lady R3 vessel, informed that the crew had abandoned the vessel with the passengers onboard, the ministry said.
On the initiative of the Foreign Ministry, in coordination with the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Missions in the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam together with the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCC) based in Singapore, the rescue efforts were coordinated.
Subsequently, the Japanese-flagged vessel, “Helios Leader”, having been contacted by the Singapore MRCC, rescued the passengers from the distressed vessel. The passengers were handed over to Vietnam authorities at Vung Tau Port in South Vietnam.
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Ministry earlier stated that it continues to work closely with the Sri Lanka Missions in the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and IOM for early repatriation, once the screening process to ascertain their nationality and other formalities are completed.
Meanwhile, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang told a press conference on November 09 that more than 300 Sri Lankans who were rescued at sea off Vietnam are now in stable conditions and have been provided with temporary accommodations.
All of the Sri Lankans have been handed over to Ba Ria-Vung Tau competent forces and the Consulate General of Sri Lanka in Ho Chi Minh City. They are now staying in Vung Tau city, and Dat Do and Xuyen Moc districts.
Source – Adaderana.lk