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Saturday, June 5, 2021

Dozens of Rohingya refugees land off Aceh coast

THE JAKARTA POST
AFP
Pulau Idaman, Aceh 
 Fri, June 4, 2021
A group of Rohingya refugees gather on a beach after arriving at Pulau Idaman, a small island off the coast of East Aceh in northern Sumatra on June 4, 2021. (AFP/Cekmad)

A boat filled with dozens of Rohingya, mostly women and children, landed on an island off Aceh coast early Friday, according to an AFP reporter and the UN refugee agency.

It is the latest wave of arrivals by the persecuted minority in Muslim-majority Indonesia, after often perilous, months-long sea journeys from cramped refugee camps in Bangladesh -- next to their native Myanmar.

The group of about 80 Rohingya landed on tiny Pulau Idaman, a small island just off the coast of East Aceh, an AFP reporter said, citing figures from local officials.

The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, also confirmed the landing but declined to discuss details.

It was not clear where the group departed from before Friday's arrival.

Idaman island resident Muhammad Upin said he spotted the refugees' boat early Friday morning.

"Around 7:00 am, the group got off the boat and came ashore," he said.


"They were stranded because one of the boat engines was broken. They're all healthy and the locals have given them food," he added.

Upin described the engine-equipped boat as similar to a ferry rather than the often rickety wooden vessels that have come ashore on previous landings.

In September, a group of nearly 300 Rohingya arrived in northern Indonesia after what they described as months of terror on the high seas.

They reported being beaten by human traffickers as they battled hunger and thirst, with the corpses of those who died at sea thrown overboard.

The reports matched previous refugee claims relayed to international organisations.

In June last year, nearly 100 Rohingya arrived in the same part of Indonesia.

It was not immediately clear if the latest group would be allowed to stay, but previous migrants have been placed in refugee camps.

Around one million Muslim Rohingya live in cramped camps in Bangladesh, where human traffickers run lucrative operations promising to find them sanctuary abroad.

The Rohingya fled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to escape a military crackdown against them four years ago that UN investigators said amounted to genocide.

Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia are favored destinations for Rohingya trying to escape Bangladesh.

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