Indonesia allows a ship with 120 Rohingya refugees to land



Indonesian authorities have decided to allow a ship carrying 120 Rohingya Muslims to land after spending days adrift in the northernmost province of Aceh.

ACEH BAND, Indonesia – Indonesian authorities decided on Wednesday to allow a ship carrying 120 Rohingya Muslims to land after spending days adrift in the northernmost province of Aceh.

The decision was made because of the severe living conditions of the passengers, who are overwhelmingly women and children, said Armed Wijaya, who heads a working group on refugees at the Ministry of Policy, Law and Security Coordination.

“The Indonesian government has decided, on behalf of humanity, to take in the Rohingya refugees who are currently adrift at sea near Bireuen district,” Wijaya said in a statement.

Local authorities had previously said they would return the ship to international waters despite calls from the United Nations Refugee Agency and human rights groups to allow it to land.

The boat is reported to be leaking and with a damaged engine, floating in the open sea in inclement weather and may be at risk of tipping over, UNHCR said on Tuesday.

The boat was first spotted by local fishermen on Sunday about 60 miles (96 kilometers) off the coast of Bireuen, said Badruddin Yunus, leader of the local tribal fishing community. He said fishermen could not tow the damaged wooden boat, but provided food, water and clothes to the passengers, including 60 women, 51 children and nine men.

“His condition seems weak, but good,” Yunus said, adding that the Rohingya said they wanted to go to Malaysia and had been at sea for 28 days before their ship’s engine broke down.

Local officials, backed by police and the navy, provided food, medicine, a new engine and a technician to help repair the ship, and earlier said they would return it to international waters once it was fixed. say the head of the Bireuen district, Muzakkar Gani. who also cited concerns that some people may have COVID-19.

The plan to push the ship back into the sea sparked protests from human rights groups.

“The Rohingya ethnic group is a group of vulnerable, stateless people who should be protected,” the Coalition for Civil Society, a coalition of nine Indonesian rights groups, said in a statement. “As a human rights country and a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Indonesia should set an example for other countries.”

UNHCR said it is ready to help the government and the local community prepare for the Rohingya, including a quarantine process in accordance with international public health protocols.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh since August 2017, when the Myanmar army launched a clean-up operation in response to attacks by a group. rebel. Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rapes, killings and the burning of thousands of homes.

Rohingya groups have tried to leave the crowded camps of Bangladesh and travel by sea on dangerous trips to other Muslim-majority countries in the region.

Muslim-dominated Malaysia has been a common destination for ships, and traffickers have promised refugees a better life there. But many Rohingya refugees landing in Malaysia face detention.

Although Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, UNHCR said a 2016 presidential regulation provides a national legal framework governing the treatment of refugees on ships in distress near Indonesia and to help them disembark.

These arrangements have been in place for years, most recently in June, when 81 Rohingya refugees were rescued off the east coast of Aceh.


Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.

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