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Fishermen rescue dozens of Rohingya after boat capsizes in Aceh

Reuters - March 20, 2024

Jakarta – Fishermen in Aceh were scrambling on Wednesday to rescue dozens of Rohingya after high tides capsized their boat in waters off the province, a regional fishing chief said.

The United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates about 2,000 Rohingya have reached Indonesia since last October, among droves of the persecuted religious minority in Myanmar who fled to Indonesia over the past year, mostly to Aceh.

More than 50 Rohingya were standing on a hull near the city of Meulaboh in West Aceh after the boat capsized in high tides, said Miftach Tjut Adek, chief of the fishing community in the province.

"We, as fishermen, are obligated to help them," he told Reuters, adding that the rescuers had braved inclement weather to take them off the sinking structure.

Reuters could not immediately determine how many Rohingya were in the waters or where they were headed.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement it was "deeply concerned about the situation in Meulaboh".

"This is an emergency, our priority should be to join hands with the authorities and the local community to save lives," it said, adding that it could not immediately confirm the total number of Rohingya or whether there were deaths among the group.

The regional government of West Aceh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For years, Rohingya have left Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are generally regarded as foreign interlopers from South Asia, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.

The Rohingya take to wooden boats each year, when the seas are calmer between November and April, destined for neighbouring Thailand and Muslim-majority Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The 2023 toll of at least 569 Rohingya dead or missing while trying to flee Myanmar or Bangladesh was the highest since 2014, the UNHCR said in January.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/03/20/fishermen-rescue-dozens-of-rohingya-after-boat-capsizes-in-aceh.htm