On Monday, a boat carrying nearly 200 Rohingya refugees reached ashore in Indonesia, the fourth such landing in recent months.
The Rohingya, mostly Muslim, are a heavily persecuted community in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar, from where their attempts to escape to Malaysia or Indonesia often involve long, expensive sea journeys on poor-quality vessels.
Local police spokesman Winardy said that the wooden boat arrived at 5:30 pm (10:30 GMT) on a beach in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province.
“One hundred and eighty-five Rohingya immigrants landed in Pidie (district). The figure consists of 83 adult males, 70 adult females and 32 children,” said Winardy in a statement.
Reportedly, a local facility temporarily housed the refugees, and health workers treated those who were sick. Medical staff put some who appeared extremely weak and thin on drips. AFP reported that some children were vomiting and suffering from severe dehydration. Details about their journey were not immediately available, but one young arrival said that they had come from Bangladesh.
Not long after the refugees arrived, Marfian, the leader of a local fishing community, reported that “some refugees landed in weak conditions”. “When they were at the shoreline, locals helped by giving them food,” he added.
It was noted that some Acehnese fishermen had helped Rohingya boats come ashore in recent years, but the latest boat was carried ashore by the wind. According to Winardy, authorities were coordinating refugee response “considering the increased number of refugees landing in Aceh”.
Following a month at sea, another boat carrying 57 Rohingya refugees made landfall in Aceh the day before Monday’s boat landing. According to the UNHCR, two boats carrying a total of 229 Rohingya landed in the same province in November. The refugees frequently travel to Malaysia because it is relatively wealthy, but many initially arrive in Indonesia because it is more hospitable and has a Muslim majority.
Following reports of many boats carrying Rohingya who have been reported lost for weeks in the Indian Ocean, UN agencies and human rights organisations have pleaded with governments in the area for immediate assistance.
The Guardian reported that at least 180 Rohingya refugees were feared dead after their boat went missing in the Andaman Sea. Relatives who have lost communication assumed the refugees who have been at sea for weeks to be dead, as reported by the UNHCR over the weekend.
According to a statement issued by the United Nations on Sunday, 180 refugees had left the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar on December 2, bound for Malaysia, when their boat sank. Reports cited relatives of those onboard as saying they had lost contact with the boat on December 8, and “had little hope left” that they would survive. Reports indicate that if the boat has sunk, 2022 would be the deadliest year for refugees fleeing Bangladesh’s camps, bringing the death toll to 350, one of the worst in recent history.