As the whole of humanity continue to scramble to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of Rohingya refugees are left stranded at sea in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, with some countries reportedly pushing the refugees away as governments continue to implement emergency restrictions on border controls and nationwide lockdown policies.

Reports confirm that Malaysian maritime authorities shoved back some 200 Rohingya refugees arriving aboard overloaded flimsy boats over fears of the spread of COVID-19 on April 16.On April 23, two vessels reached the Southeastern coast of Bangladesh, but authorities stated that Bangladesh could no longer allow entry of additionalRohingyas.

It must be noted that in 2010, ASEAN member states committed to ensure timely assistance to persons and vessels in distress at sea as outlined in the ASEAN Declaration on Cooperation in Search and Rescue of Persons and Vessels in Distress at Sea, which highlights the significance of developing coordinated regional approaches, including operational mechanisms and communication systems to prepare for and ensure a rapid and effective response to distress situations.

In the face of the global health crisis, which, has already affected more than 3 million people, the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), along with allied networks and partners in the human rights and peacebuilding community, strongly assert that state policies on emergency declarations and measures based on the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a justification to discriminate or deny the inherent human rights of any particular groups, minoritized communities, or individuals. We stress our position that emergency laws and policies adopted by states in response to COVID-19 pandemic should ensure compliance to existing international human rights and standards and norm, and must be respectful of the human dignity especially of at-risk populations and asylum-seekers such as the Rohingyas.    

This call to action aims to urgently address the issues of Rohingya refugees in your respective countries. We can express our concern over their plight by sending a letter to our respective governments and urge them to take a more humane approach and appropriate actions.  

Get Involved and Take Action: Send a Letter as a group or as an individual to Your Government to provide adequate help and call on states to help and to NOT push Rohingya refugees out to sea! 

(You are free to copy and edit and supply additional information to the draft letter below as you deem fit. Please send us a copy of the letter you will send. You can reach us at


Dear ___________________

(Put Name of Your Government Official, Position, Address)

Subject: HELP THE ROHINGYA REFUGEES! Save their lives!

I am (for individuals)________ We, _________ (for groups/organizations), concerned over recent reports that hundreds of Rohingya refugees are stranded at sea in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, with some countries reportedly pushing the refugees away as governments have implemented emergency restrictions on border controls and nationwide lockdown policies in fear of the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While I/we fully understand that certain restrictions must be implemented by our government to respond to the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19, I/we respectfully appeal to your good office to take appropriate action within your jurisdiction to help the Rohingya refugees and provide adequate and necessary assistance to them. 

Saving lives matter in this most difficult time and helping the Rohingya refugees means not only saving their lives but the lives and security of the whole of humanity. I/We humbly urge our government to implement a comprehensive policy integrating humanitarian emergency responses that could facilitate assistance to at-risk populations such as the Rohingya refugees.

At this critical moment, a whole-of-society- approach to the COVID19 crisis is more than necessary and I/we respectfully remind our government that laws and other measures that are being implemented in response to the pandemic must comply with the universal principles and standards of respect to human rights and dignity. 

Amid our task to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I/we encourage our government to stand IN SOLIDARITY with the Rohingya refugees. Together, we can save lives. More than ever, now is the time to show our humanity.

Respectfully Yours,

___________________ (Name of Individual/Organization)