Maritime movements in Andaman Sa and Bay of Bengal have for many years been the primary mode of migration for Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi traveling from Bangladesh and Myanmar to Malaysia and Indonesia via Thailand. This movement across waters is not new, with increasing numbers of refugees departing from the Bay of Bengal since 2012. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that a total of over 150,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis have left Myanmar on boats since 2012; it increased in 2015, with 25,000 people, and in 2015, about 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis departed.

These maritime movements received worldwide media attention in May 2015 when smugglers abandoned several boats carrying a total of over 5,000 passengers due to fears related to the increase in crackdowns on human trafficking in the region following the discovery of mass graves close to the border of Thailand and Malaysia.

The interagency Anti-Trafficking Working Group (ATWG) in Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) identified, referred, and assisted 243 Victims of trafficking from January to June 2023. The ATWG figures should not be interpreted as showing the extent of the prevalence of human trafficking in the camps and host communities.

What is the illegal maritime movement?

Illegal maritime movement generally refers to activities involving the unlawful or unauthorized movement of vessels or goods across maritime borders. This can encompass a range of illicit activities, including.

Human Smuggling: Providing services, including transportation or fraudulent documents, to an individual who voluntarily seeks illegal entry into a foreign country.

Human trafficking: Human trafficking exploits men, women, or children for the purposes of forced labor, commercial sexual exploitation, or other forms of forceful criminal activity.

Piracy: Acts of robbery or violence at sea, typically committed by individuals or groups with the intent of seizing or hijacking vessels for various purposes, including ransom, theft, or political motivations.

Illegal fishing: Unauthorized or unregulated fishing activities that violate national or international laws and agreements.

Terrorism: Violence or threats that are carried out with the intent to create fear, disrupt maritime activities, or achieve political goals.

Illegal migration: The unauthorized movement of people across maritime borders in violation of immigration laws.


Negative Impact of Illegal Migration:

An illegal immigrant brings different negative impact for an individual or families, some sate below:

Lack of access to services:

  • Illegal immigrants usually have no or very limited access to public health systems, proper housing, education, and banks.


  • People have been kidnapped or tricked into slavery to work as laborers, after entering the country, for example in factories.

Kidnapping and ransoms:

  • In some regions, people that are still enroute to their destination country are also sometimes kidnapped, for example for ransom. In some instances, they are also tortured, raped, and killed if the requested ransom does not arrive.

Gender-based violence:

  • Sexual harassment, rape, exploitation, are common risks women and girls. Rohingya women and girls are particularly at risk to be kidnapped and sold into marriage or sexual or domestic servitude.

Exploitation of labor:

  • Usually, they did not get the minimum wage, including unsafe working conditions, and reported to authorities the violations to the authorities.


Death and Missing:

Death and missing by exposure occur in the Andaman Sea are very common. Almost 10% has been recorded as a death in recent years.



  • Over 2,200 Rohingya refugees are currently known to be held in detention outside Myanmar.
  • In Myanmar, laws preventing freedom of movement are strictly enforced, leading to 1,200 Rohingya refugees detained (Jan – Aug 2023).


  • Smugglers often take money without rendering the promised service or request a higher fee than initially agreed. Threatening to stop the travel or harm refugees or their family members unless they pay more money.

Initially, and unaware of the risks, individuals may willingly undertake a journey that later turns into a situation of trafficking and death.


Contacts for emergency assistance:

The National Health Service: 16263

National Emergency Services: 999

UNHCR Hotline (support related to Rohingya people in Camps): 16670


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