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297 Rohingyas land in Indonesia after six months at sea

07 Sep 2020 16:27, Somoy English Desk
297 Rohingyas land in Indonesia after six months at sea
297 Rohingyas land in Indonesia after six months at sea

Almost 300 Rohingya asylum seekers believed to have been at sea for six months have reportedly landed in Aceh province on the north-western tip of Indonesia's Sumatra Island.

Acehnese police said a wooden boat carrying the Rohingya was spotted by local fishermen several kilometres off the coast near Lhokseumawe before landing at the city's Ujung Blang Beach just after midnight on Monday (local time).

There were 297 Rohingyas on board the boat, including 181 women and 14 children, local police chief Iptu Irwansya told reporters.

Junaidi Yahya, head of the Red Cross in Lhokseumawe, said the group was being detained temporarily, reports ABC News. 

"We hope they can be moved to the evacuation centre today, but their health, especially related to COVID-19, is our main concern," said Yahya.

An unwell 13-year-old was taken to hospital in an ambulance, police said.

Images of the Rohingya arrivals show lines of women in masks carrying their possessions in plastic bags, and men huddled on the floor of a thatched-roof shelter.

Acehnese fishermen rescued more than 100 Rohingya asylum seekers, including 79 women and children, from another vessel in early June after Indonesian authorities had initially threatened to push them back.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar amid what the UN says may be genocide by the Myanmar Government. Many live in densely crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the allegation of genocide.
Rights activists fear large numbers of Rohingya have gone to sea, fleeing the ongoing persecution in Myanmar and hardship in the camps in Bangladesh as traffickers promise them a better life abroad.

The boat was carrying almost 300 Rohingya Muslims.(AP: Rahmat Mirza)
Advocates have reported increased public anger in South-East Asia against Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, a non-profit group focusing on the Rohingya crisis, said those that arrived in Aceh on Monday had set sail from southern Bangladesh at the end of March or early April, bound for Malaysia.

But both Malaysian and Thai authorities refused to let them land, she said.

Smugglers split the passengers into several boats, some of which managed to land in Malaysia and Indonesia in June, but several hundred remained at sea.

The smugglers called their families to demand payments in the weeks before they were taken to shore, she said.

Lewa said the smugglers seemed to not want to disembark them because not everyone had paid.

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