Nearly 200 Rohingya refugees land in western Indonesia

Rohingya refugees gathering inside a temporary shelter after landing on a beach at Matang Peulawi village on March 27. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Rohingya refugees speaking to Indonesian officials on a beach at Matang Peulawi village in Indonesia on March 27. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PEUREULAK, Indonesia – At least 184 Rohingya refugees, including many women and children, landed in Indonesia’s westernmost province on Monday, officials said, after they were dropped at sea by boat and made to swim ashore.

Thousands of the mostly Muslim Rohingya, heavily persecuted in Myanmar, risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys, often in poor-quality boats, in an attempt to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

Locals in the East Aceh town of Peureulak alerted the police on Monday morning after discovering the group that officials said included 94 men, 70 women and 20 children.

“There was no boat on the beach when they arrived,” Mr Nasri, the head of Peureulak subdistrict who, like many Indonesians, has one name, told AFP.

“There are some refugees who look weak. They probably have not been eating for days.”

At least five were taken to hospital, while others were taken to a mosque compound for shelter, food and medical treatment, he said.

An official from the East Aceh social affairs agency, Mr Saharani, confirmed the same arrival total to AFP.

A United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman said the agency was still gathering information on the new arrivals.

According to one of the passengers, they were dropped offshore and told to swim to land by the boat’s captain.

“After that, the ship we were on immediately left,” Rohingya refugee Ali told state news agency Antara.

The refugees were trying to reach Malaysia from Myanmar, Mr Ali said.

At least five refugees were taken to hospital, while others were taken to a mosque compound for shelter, food and medical treatment. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Local officials are in talks with the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration about shelter for the refugees.

More than 2,000 Rohingya are believed to have attempted the risky journey to South-east Asian countries in 2022, according to the UNHCR.

The agency estimated nearly 200 Rohingya died or went missing attempting hazardous sea crossings last year. AFP

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