More than 100 Rohingyas brought to safety in Aceh after protests – Archipelago
Jakarta, Indonesia â
Sun, January 2, 2022
The Indonesian navy rescued more than 100 Rohingya migrants traveling in a wooden boat, bringing them to safety early Friday morning following pressure from locals.
The warship arrived at Lhokseumawe on the northern coast of Aceh province shortly after midnight, according to AFP journalists on site.
Rough seas and torrential rains hampered the operation to bring mainly women and children ashore, the navy said.
The rescue operation followed local protests and pressure from rights groups, including the UNHRC, after the Indonesian government initially refused entry.
Jakarta gave in on Wednesday evening and agreed to bring the boat ashore on humanitarian grounds.
Local fishermen in Aceh first discovered the vessel on December 25 as it drifted between 50 and 70 nautical miles off the coast with a broken engine.
Video they sent to the scene showed the vessel dangerously overcrowded and sitting low in the water after taking water in rough seas after the engine had failed.
The video and footage circulated on social media, sparking support for migrants, the Rohingya Muslim minority who are fleeing persecution in their native Myanmar, according to local residents.
Local Acehnese said AFP they were motivated by the memory of foreign aid during more than 30 years of conflict and the devastating tsunami that left hundreds of thousands of people dead in 2004.
“We sincerely want to help, especially because we know what it feels like to receive help from other countries during the tsunami,” said Ridwan, 56, a local fisherman who, like many Indonesians, only wears ‘one name.
âEveryone was eager to help from the start,â he said.
The migrants appeared exhausted and crowded onto the bridge after being adrift for nearly a month and running out of food and water, AFP journalists at port observed.
A local fisherman said earlier AFP that migrants told him that a 17-year-old boy had died.
After disembarking, the migrants were sprayed with disinfectant and transferred to buses before being chased away.
Officials said they would be transferred to a nearby training center where they would be tested for COVID-19, undergo medical checks, and then be quarantined for 10 days.
Rohingya migrants frequently pass through Aceh province on their way to Malaysia, where they seek work and a better life.