The latest boat brings the total number of Rohingya arrivals in Indonesia over 72 hours to nearly 600, according to figures provided by local officials. [Amanda Jufrian/AFP]Published On 17 Nov 202317 Nov 2023
About 250 desperate Rohingya refugees are afloat in the Andaman Sea after their attempt to land in Indonesia was rejected.
Their decrepit, overcrowded wooden boat reached western Indonesia on Thursday. However, after two other boats carrying about 350 refugees had docked in the northern region of Aceh earlier in the week, they were prevented from landing.
The third boat was met with resistance from locals in Bireuen, who refused to allow it to land and pushed the vessel back out to sea.
When the boat tried to land a second time – a little farther south at Muara Batu – and refugees staggered onto the beach, they were lined up and escorted back, witnesses said.
The mostly Muslim Rohingya are persecuted in Myanmar, and thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys, often in flimsy boats, to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.
Fishermen at the beach in Muara Batu handed some of the refugees packets of food and bottles of water, but the situation escalated late into the evening.
Men, women, children and babies could be seen looking to shore as angry locals told them not to land the boat, which some on board said had sailed from Bangladesh.
Young men on board held their arms out in exasperation as the open-topped boat listed to one side due to overcrowding.
Local Acehnese delivered food in the hope those on board would decide to move on, according to Mukhtaruddin, village head of Pulo Pineung Meunasah.
The passengers, however, were insistent after almost three weeks at sea.
After climbing down ropes to swim to shore and appeal to the Acehnese, one Rohingya man covered in plasters lay on the sand barefoot and shirtless, appearing almost lifeless.
The rest of Thursday’s arrivals were still waiting on the boat about 100 metres (110 yards) from the beach, Mukhtaruddin said.
Rohingya refugee Manzur Alam said the boat had left Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh – home to almost a million Rohingya refugees – 20 days ago with 249 people on board.
Mukhtaruddin estimated “between 250 and 260” refugees were on the boat or the beach.
Three people, including Alam, gave different passenger breakdowns but all said mostly women and children were on board.
“There are many babies, little children. Please protect them. They are very hungry because they didn’t get anything,” said Alam, 23.
Some of the Rohingya men straddled the vessel’s sides, using their hands to shield their faces from the sun as they looked for answers on shore.
A Rohingya girl could also be seen cupping her hands upward in a gesture of prayer.
Bangladesh is home to at least 960,000 Rohingya refugees, according to UN figures, most of whom fled a 2017 crackdown by the Myanmar military that is now subject to a UN genocide investigation. [Amanda Jufrian/AFP]A man gives water to a newly arrived Rohingya refugee after he swam to the beach. Others are stranded on the boat after the nearby community decided not to allow them to land but gave them water and food in Pineung, Aceh province. [Amanda Jufrian/AFP]The stateless and persecuted minority live in overcrowded, dangerous and underresourced relief camps in Bangladesh, and several attempts to broker their return to Myanmar have failed due to reluctance from Myanmar and the refugees themselves. [Amanda Jufrian/AFP]The UN’s refugee agency is coordinating with local authorities to help the latest Rohingya arrivals, said Mitra Salima Suryono, the agency’s Indonesia spokesperson. “We hope the authorities and the local people can continue to open the space for the refugees and allow them to land,” she said. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]On November 15, 2023, another boat carrying 147 Rohingya arrived in Aceh’s Pidie region, local government official Ihsan said in a statement. Another group of 196 landed in the same region the day before, according to local navy commander Andi Susanto. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]
Newly arrived Rohingya refugees are transferred to a shelter at Batee beach, Aceh province, Indonesia. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]More than 2,000 Rohingya are believed to have attempted the risky journey to Southeast Asian countries in 2022, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]Nearly 200 Rohingya died or went missing last year while attempting hazardous sea crossings, the agency estimated. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]Rohingya refugees queue for breakfast after their arrival at a makeshift shelter in Padang Tiji in Indonesia’s Aceh province. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]A Rohingya refugee bathes his child after their arrival at a makeshift shelter in Padang Tiji. [Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP]