Rohingya rescued after four months at sea; IOM Indonesia assists


After an agreement with the local community who were concerned about the welfare of the children, 49 women, 33 children and 17 men were allowed to disembark on Thursday in North Aceh.

The 99 Rohingya were rescued by local fishermen on Wednesday after being stranded at sea for more than 120 days.

International Organization for Migration (IOM) Indonesia’s advance team is helping the refugees with registration and initial assessment, as well as much-needed food, water and hygiene packages.

“Rapid tests for COVID19 conducted last night reveal that all tested negative,” said Louis Hoffmann, IOM Chief of Mission in Indonesia.

“This is good news as we are very mindful, of course, of community concerns over public health issues and we are providing ongoing support to the authorities through our medical teams alongside UNHCR’s registration team.”

Speaking on Friday to IOM staff via an interpreter, a spokesperson from the group said they set off from Balukhali camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh four months and 10 days ago.

He said they were all originally from Rakhine state, Myanmar.

He added that one woman died during the journey leaving behind two children. Another three children, two of them siblings, and a 10-year-old girl were unaccompanied. The group also included one pregnant woman.

The spokesperson said, “We set off on foot, through the hills to Shamlapur [Cox’s Bazar] from where we took small boats that brought us to a bigger boat at sea. The captain of the big boat was a man from Myanmar. Our original destination was supposed to be Malaysia, where we were supposed to pay 10,000 Ringgit (USD2,300.00) each upon arrival.”

He said the boat was arranged by a ‘Rohingya who lived abroad’.

Roughly 1,400 Rohingya found themselves stranded at sea during the 2020 sailing season, which typically ends with the arrival of the monsoon in early June. At least 130 have died. Malaysian officials report at least 300 are on a vessel off the coast of Koh Adang island in Thailand.

On May 28, IOM issued a statement urging Rohingya stranded at sea to be allowed to disembark.

“A coordinated response to this situation, inclusive of search and rescue operations and safe disembarkation, is urgently needed to ensure that those who are still stranded at sea can be brought to safety on land,” IOM’s Director General António Vitorino said at the time. (Source: IOM)