Indonesia braces for more Rohingya arrivals in coming weeks

Jakarta, Dec 28 (EFE).- Indonesian authorities and human rights groups are preparing for the arrival of more boats carrying Rohingya refugees over the next few weeks, after two such vessels with more than 200 people from the persecuted Muslim community landed in the country over the past week. 

The coordinator of nonprofit Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras), Azharul Husna, told EFE that that the organization is monitoring at least two other boats said to be navigating waters close to the Indonesian coast, distinct from the boats that arrived earlier. 

She said on phone that there was information that the people onboard these boats were “also dying of hunger and need help,” due to which the NGO had urged the government to take an initiative for helping them. 

Rohingya refugees select used clothes donate by local people at their temporary shelter provided by Aceh local Goverment in Pidie, Aceh, Indonesia, 28 December 2022. EFE-EPA/HOTLI SIMANJUNTAK

On Sunday, around 57 Rohingyas drifted ashore at a beach in the Aceh province, in the far north of the island of Sumtra, and a day later nearly 200 refugees including 32 children landed in the same region in a severe state of dehydration and weakness. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Tuesday put the number of occupants on the second boat at 174, while local police authorities in Aceh had reported 185 Rohingyas. 

The survivors said that 26 of their companions had perished during the perilous voyage. 

Azharul said that the discrepancy in the number of arrivals is a result of the chaotic situation on the ground, as the refugees were transferred to different accommodation centers or health centers for receiving medical care. 

Meanwhile, local volunteers also arrived at the centers in an attempt to help the refugees. 

“I believe that the locals are moved and want to help, but at times they end up hindering the aid process. The refugee shelters were swarming with people until 10 pm on Tuesday,” Azharul said. 

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. 

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

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

The refugees end up paying between $1,500-$2,500 for human traffickers for these dangerous boat journeys. EFE

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