Desperation: An asylum seeker from Myanmar rescued after jumping from a cargo ship and surviving 23 hours in the freezing ocean

Pro-democracy protesters seen supporting Myanmar in London. Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An asylum seeker from Myanmar was rescued off the coast of New Zealand after he managed to survive for 23 hours in the freezing waters.

The 27-year-old man, identified by local media as Min Naing, was spotted by port workers patrolling New Zealand’s northwest coast on November 2, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Min Naing, who was working on a logging ship that was passing close to New Zealand, told the Herald that he put on an immersion survival suit and descended a rope to get into the sea.

The case is extremely rare as asylum seekers almost never arrive in New Zealand by sea, given that the country is many hundreds of miles from its nearest neighbors.

However, after floating in the sea for hours, Min Naing told the Herald he gave up hope of being rescued and just waited to die.

He told the Herald that he was set to return to Myanmar in two months’ time when his contract on the boat ended, but that death would be no worse than returning as he felt he would be arrested by the military.

Myanmar has been controlled by the country’s military since it seized power from the government in February. More than 223,000 people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the coup, according to the UN.

Min Naing said he also feared retribution because his family, who are in hiding in Myanmar, are Hindu, and because they took part in the pro democracy uprising that followed the coup.

“They can come and arrest us at any time, we never know when. Everyone is afraid. Life in Myanmar is dangerous for all Myanmar people,” he told the Herald.

Despite enduring harsh conditions in the water, Min Naing is in good health, Darren Paki, an area crime prevention manager with the New Zealand police, told the Herald.

“This really was an extraordinary survival story,” Paki said.

On Monday, Simon Lamain, an attorney for Min Naing, told the Herald that his client was now going through “immigration procedures” to claim asylum, which could take as long as 12 months. Lamin added that his client is allowed to stay in New Zealand during that process.

Paki previously told the Herald that Min Naing would not face any charges in relation to his actions.

Min Naing tested negative for Covid-19 after he was rescued, but he is being made to isolate at a hospital in the nearby town of Gisborne until November 10, the Herald said.

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