More Rohingya refugees arrive in Indonesia after weeks at sea

Piddy – A second group of weakened and exhausted Rohingya Muslims landed on the beaches of Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh on Monday after weeks of sea voyages, officials said.

Local police chief Fauzi said at least 185 men, women and children disembarked from a rickety wooden boat on Ujong Pie beach in the coastal village of Muara Tiga in Aceh’s Pidie district at dusk.

“After weeks at sea, they were very weak from dehydration and exhaustion,” Fauzi said.

They were taken to the village council and remained there while receiving help from residents, health workers and others.

Fauzi said immigration officials and police were trying to identify the refugee to determine if they were among the 190 Rohingya reported by the United Nations to have been adrift in a small boat in the Andaman Sea for a month.

The United Nations refugee agency on Friday urged countries to rescue refugees, citing reports that their conditions were dire and they did not have enough food or water.

“Many were women and children, and as many as 20 people were reported to have died on board the unseaworthy vessel during the journey,” the agency said.

Also on Friday, another group of 58 Rohingya — all men — arrived in Radong village in Aceh’s Besar district.

Azharul Husna, head of the Aceh chapter of Indonesian rights group KontraS, said on Monday that all the men in the group were carrying UNHCR cards from refugee camps in Bangladesh and left to seek a better life in Malaysia.

Citing one of the refugees, Husna said the 58 refugees had left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh to work on plantations in Malaysia, where more than 700,000 Rohingya from Myanmar had fled. Their boat was damaged, their engine failed and they were adrift at sea until they landed in Aceh.

Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rape, killing and burning of thousands of homes belonging to the Rohingya since 2017, forcing them to flee to places like Bangladesh.

Malaysia has been a common destination for many refugees arriving by boat, but they have also been detained in the country.

Although neighboring Indonesia is not a signatory to the U.N.’s 1951 refugee convention, the U.N. refugee agency said a 2016 presidential regulation provided a legal framework to manage the treatment of refugees on board ships in distress near Indonesia and help disembark them.

Last month, 219 Rohingya refugees were rescued in two rickety boats off the coast of the North Aceh region.

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Associated Press Writers Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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