Eighteen humanitarian agencies have urged the countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea to conduct search and rescue operations to save refugees and asylum seekers stranded at sea.
They also urged these countries to allow refugees to disembark on their shores and provide adequate assistance, reads a joint press statement issued on Friday.
In the statement, the humanitarian agencies urged the countries in the region to take urgent collective solutions to address the issue and better shared responsibility for hosting refugees.
They said, "Hundreds of refugees mainly Rohingyas are currently believed to be stranded at sea. Bangladesh has recently allowed 400 refugees to disembark on its shores."
However, the other governments in the region have been increasingly reluctant to allow refugees to disembark, partly due to Covid-19 outbreak.
At least two boats with refugees were denied disembarkation and pushed back at sea between Malaysia and Bangladesh in the past weeks.
Covid-19 is no excuse to prevent people from disembarking, nor does it exempt states from upholding their obligations under international human rights, humanitarian, refugee, and maritime laws, the humanitarian agencies said.
"Preventing these boats from coming ashore will probably lead to more deaths at sea."
The organisations also called on the government of Myanmar to immediately address the issues that are driving the Rohingyas to risk their lives on dangerous journeys at sea, including by implementing the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Committee.
Also, they urged all the governments in the region to save lives and prioritise the needs of vulnerable people.
Organisations that jointly issued the statement are Action Contre la Faim, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, Asian Dignity Initiative, Care, Child Fund International, Coast Trust, Danish Refugee Council, Humanity and Inclusion, ISDE Bangladesh, Médecins du Monde France, Médecins du Monde Switzerland, Mukti Cox's Bazar, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Phals, Plan International, Save the Children, and Solidarités International.