Saturday, April 20, 2024

Dozens of Rohingya refugees rescued after night on hull of capsized boat

At least 69 Rohingya refugees have been rescued after a boat with an estimated 150 people on board capsized off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday. The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS Aceh) said that 42 men, 18 women and nine children were brought to port.

Dozens more are feared to have drowned.

Before the arrival of rescue teams, six individuals—four women and two men—were saved by Acehnese fishermen and subsequently provided testimony to Faisal Rahman, a representative from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Rahman indicated that the accounts of survivors strongly indicated a significant number had perished. 

“While we cannot ascertain the precise casualty count, testimonies from the six individuals rescued suggest a considerable loss of life,” he informed. Around 50 individuals lost their lives when the boat capsized,” he added.

Amiruddin, a tribal fishing community leader in Aceh Barat district, told the Associated Press that those rescued indicated that the boat was sailing east when it started leaking and strong currents pushed it toward the west of Aceh. The six said others were still trying to survive on the capsized craft.

Last year, nearly 4,500 Rohingya — two-thirds of them women and children — fled their homeland of Myanmar and the refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh by boat, the United Nations refugee agency reported. Of those, 569 died or went missing while crossing the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, the highest death toll since 2014.

In August 2023, 17 Rohingya refugees died when their boat sank in the Bay of Bengal.

People in Aceh have become increasingly resistant to the Rohingya who are usually trying to reach Malaysia, which had 108,500 registered Rohingya refugees at the end of February, according to the UNHCR. In December last year, the Indonesian navy pushed back a boat carrying Rohingya refugees as it approached the coast of Aceh, amid resentment among residents at a perceived sudden increase in boat arrivals.

Also in December, a mob of students stormed the basement of a local community hall in Banda Aceh where about 137 Rohingya were taking shelter, and called for the group to be deported.

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