Indonesian fishermen rescue 94 Rohingya refugees off Aceh Province coastline


Indonesian fishermen rescued nearly a hundred Rohingya whose boat broke down off Indonesia’s Sumatra Island late on Monday. A total of 15 men, 49 women and 30 children were rescued. The Rohingya boat’s origin and the destination were not immediately known.

The Indonesian fishing crew saw the Rohingya boat with 94 people onboard drifting at sea and moved them onto their own boat, the official said.

But the fishermen’s boat got stranded after running into its own technical problems while trying to reach the shore, according to North Aceh Police Chief Tri Hadiyanto.

“Today police, the military and local officials came to the site of the boat, which is four nautical miles off the coast,” Hadiyanto told BenarNews, referring to the broken down fishing boat.

Footage shared by the local civil protection agency showed rescuers approaching the fishing boat, which carried what the man in the video described as “Burmese people.”

“We’re seeing children and women. We will pick them up and rescue them,” the voice in the video said.

The 94 people were hungry and weak when they were discovered in waters off the Indonesian coast, the Associated Press quoted a local official as saying.

Lilianne Fan, spokeswoman for the Geutanyoe Foundation, a humanitarian charity established in Aceh in 1999, praised the community for offering to support the refugees.

“Once again, the fishermen of Aceh show us true humanitarianism, rescuing Rohingya refugees whose boat was sinking,” she said in a Facebook post, adding that villagers were preparing food for those on the boat. “To help others, regardless of background, religion, nationality, is an obligation and a tradition that must be respected.

“Our Aceh team has been coordinating closely with the courageous fishermen and the local government in this response and stands ready to provide assistance,” she said.

In Aceh, a community leader, Muhammad Hasan, said local officials had agreed to transfer the 94 rescued Rohingya once they reached the shore of the northwestern Indonesian coast.

“The plan is to evacuate them to the Syamtalira Bayu fish market, because there are shelters there,” Hasan told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

About 1 million Rohingya who fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state are sheltering in refugee camps in and around Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. UN investigators have accused Myanmar’s military of carrying out killings and other atrocities against the stateless Rohingya during a 2017 offensive, which forced more than 730,000 across the border into Bangladesh to join thousands who had previously fled there.

Groups of Rohingya have packed onto boats and set sail for Malaysia and other locations in search of asylum, but have often been turned away.

In Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said the human rights situation in Rakhine came up during a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on Wednesday.

Retno said she urged leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to facilitate a voluntary, safe and dignified repatriation plan for Rohingya refugees.

“Repatriation is still a priority for Indonesia. We must continue to try to bring them back to their homes, the Rakhine state,” Retno said at an online press conference.

Late last year, ASEAN leaders agreed to form an ad hoc task force to help repatriate the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar. (Source: RFA)