Aceh sees arrival of another boat with 69 Rohingyas

JAKARTA, 17 Feb 2023:

A boat with 69 Rohingyas, mostly women and children, reached a beach in Indonesia, in the northwest of the country – in a new arrival that adds to the more than 300 refugees that have arrived in this area in recent months, humanitarian sources confirmed today.

The group – which consists of 17 women, 36 children and 16 men, according to preliminary records from UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency – arrived yesterday and was transferred to a social care unit in Aceh Besar district.

“All the new arrivals have been transferred to a site in Aceh Besar. UNHCR staff, along with our humanitarian partners, are in place” and “we are providing support,” an agency spokesperson said today.

The arrival is in addition to the arrival in recent months on the Indonesian coast of other Rohingya ships, a persecuted minority from Myanmar who embark on dangerous journeys in search of better living conditions.

According to data from the local NGO Geutanyoe Foundation, there are 309 refugees receiving assistance at this same social service unit – including 10 babies, 10 breastfeeding mothers and 11 children.

“They are a vulnerable group that must receive immediate protection and prompt treatment,” the entity said in a statement.

The NGO coordinator Nasruddin said the 69 refugees disembarked yesterday in a precarious wooden boat on the beach of Lampanah after 15 days of travel, although the origin of the ship is still uncertain.

Health authorities tested new arrivals for coronavirus and “their clothes will be burned to remove” any traces of the virus, he added.

In 2022, nearly 3,500 Rohingya people risked their lives on the dangerous shipping lanes in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, with at least 348 of them killed or missing on those voyages, according to UNHCR data.

The Rohingya embark on these risky ocean crossings to flee Myanmar, where they face persecution, and refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, where they are the victims of increased crime, restrictions imposed by the authorities and hopelessness.

In August 2017, the Myanmar Army launched a military campaign against the Rohingyas in a brutal operation that led to the exodus of more than 720,000 refugees and for which the country faces a charge of genocide before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.