In this picture taken on May 2, 2020, Rohingya refugees stranded at sea are seen on a boat near the coast of Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh [STR/AFP]

People traffickers holding hundreds of Rohingya refugees at sea are demanding payments from their families to release them from boats off the shores of Southeast Asia, relatives and rights groups say.

Several hundred Rohingya, members of a largely Muslim minority from Myanmar fleeing persecution at home and refugee camps in Bangladesh, have been stranded for months after countries sealed their borders to block the spread of the coronavirus.

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Three people who said their relatives were at sea told the Reuters news agency that traffickers had demanded money to release them from boats that have been

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