Rohingya refugee boat lands on Acheh beach

JAKARTA, 8 Jan 2023:

A boat with more than 184 Rohingya refugees, many of them women and children, disembarked today on an Indonesian beach in the northwestern Acheh province.

This is the third boat with a large number of refugees to arrive in Indonesia after two such vessels carrying over 200 people from the persecuted Muslim community landed in the country in late December.

Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) nonprofit coordinator Azharul Husna said the new arrivals were transferred to a nearby town to assist them after the long sea journey.

Footage has emerged on social media showing the migrants jumping into the water and making their way to the beach where they collapsed in a state of exhaustion.

This is the third group of migrants that has reportedly arrived in Acheh, in the far north of the island of Sumatra, following the arrivals on December 25 of a boat with 57 Rohingyas and a second boat a day later with 174 migrants from Myanmar.

According to the Acheh Portal news website, this vessel, like the previous ones, set sail from Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have languished for years in the largest network of refugee camps in the world.

According to the UNHCR, 2022 could be one of the deadliest years for Rohingyas, as around 2,000 refugees have set off on dangerous journeys across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea this year, out of which around 200 have died en-route and 180 remain missing, with their boat believed to have sunk in high sea.

Apart from the two boats that reached Indonesia, a vessel with 105 Rohingyas was rescued by Sri Lankan authorities on Dec 18 and another with 152 members of the community was towed by Vietnamese ships and handed over to Myanmar on Dec 7.

Having suffered persecution and widespread violence in Myanmar, almost a million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh over the years, where they continue to face high crime, restrictions by authorities and a lack of opportunities living in crowded refugee camps.

Bangladesh is home to some 925,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing neighbouring Myanmar, at least 774,000 of whom have arrived since the beginning of the Burmese army’s campaign in western Rakhine state in 2017, an operation that the UN labelled as ethnic cleansing and genocide.

The Rohingyas risk their lives on boats after leaving Bangladesh to illegally reach Malaysia or Indonesia in pursuit of a brighter and prosperous future.

Refugees end up paying between US$1,500-2,500 to make the perilous journeys.