Dozens of hungry and weak Rohingya Muslims were found on a beach in Indonesia’s northernmost province on Sunday after weeks at sea, officials said.
A group of 58 men arrived at Indrapatra Beach in Ladong, a fishing village in Aceh Besar district, local police chief Roli Juiza Away said. Villagers who saw a group of Rohingya on a rickety wooden boat helped them land and then reported their arrival to the authorities, he said.
“They look very weak from hunger and dehydration.” “Some of them are sick after a long and difficult journey at sea,” Awai said, adding that the men were getting food and water from villagers and others while they awaited further instructions from immigration and local officials in Aceh.
At least three men were rushed to a clinic for medical attention, and others received medical treatment, Avey said.
The UN and other groups on Friday urged South Asian countries to rescue as many as 190 people believed to be Rohingya refugees on a small boat that has been floating for several weeks in the Andaman Sea.
“Reports indicate that those on board have now remained at sea for a month in harsh conditions without enough food or water, without any efforts by countries in the region to help save human lives,” the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said. “Many are women and children, with reports of up to 20 people having died on the unseaworthy ship during the voyage.”
Awai said it was not clear where the group was traveling from or whether they were part of the aforementioned group of 190 Rohingya refugees. One of the men who spoke a little Malay said they had been at sea for over a month and intended to land in Malaysia to look for a better life and work there.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when Myanmar’s military launched a clearance operation in response to attacks by the insurgent group. Myanmar’s security forces have been accused of mass rapes, murders and the burning of thousands of homes.
Groups of Rohingya have tried to leave overcrowded camps in Bangladesh and make dangerous journeys by sea to other Muslim-majority countries in the region.
Malaysia was a common destination for boats, and people smugglers promised refugees a better life there. But many Rohingya refugees who land in Malaysia face detention.
Although Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN refugee convention, UNHCR said a 2016 presidential regulation provided a national legal framework governing the treatment of refugees on ships in distress near Indonesia and assistance in disembarkation.
These provisions have been in place for years, most recently last month when some 219 Rohingya refugees, including 63 women and 40 children, were rescued from two boats off the coast of northern Aceh.
“We call on the Indonesian government to save the boats and allow them to disembark safely,” Amnesty Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said. “We also call on the Indonesian government to lead a regional initiative to address the refugee crisis.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called on governments in South and Southeast Asia on Thursday “to immediately and urgently coordinate the search and rescue of this boat and ensure the safe disembarkation of those on board before any further loss of life occurs”.
“As many around the world prepare to enjoy the festive season and ring in the new year, boatloads of desperate Rohingya men, women and young children are embarking on perilous journeys in unseaworthy vessels,” Andrews said.