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UNHCR and IOM respond to Rohingya refugee tragedy off Aceh coast

Tempo - March 22, 2024

Jakarta – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in a written statement, expressed their deep concern and mobilized support in response to the tragedy when a vessel transporting 151 Rohingya refugees overturned in Aceh, leading to a significant loss of life.

In the early hours of March 20, a boat carrying Rohingya refugees capsized approximately 12 nautical miles off the coast of Meulaboh, West Aceh.

Local authorities in West Aceh were alerted to the disaster by six survivors rescued by fishermen. The National Search and Rescue Agency of Banda Aceh initiated a rescue operation, successfully bringing 75 survivors to safety by Thursday, March 21.

UNHCR and IOM teams are now on the ground, providing essential assistance to the survivors and supporting local efforts. The agencies are deeply concerned about the remaining passengers, fearing this incident could mark the largest loss of life of refugees this year.

The tragedy occurs amid a significant uptick in Rohingya refugees reaching Indonesian shores. Over 2,300 individuals arrived in 2023, a stark increase from previous years, with the majority arriving from November onwards.

In response to the growing crisis, UNHCR and IOM are intensifying their efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and protection. Their initiatives include health services, mental health support, temporary shelter refurbishment, and access to sanitation and clean water. The agencies commend the Indonesian authorities and local communities for their quick and humane response to the disaster.

This incident underscores the urgent need for regional and international cooperation to ensure the safety of refugees at sea and address the root causes of displacement in Myanmar. As the international community grapples with the ongoing refugee crisis, UNHCR and IOM call for a continued commitment to the principles of humanity and the protection of refugees and migrants.

Source: https://en.tempo.co/read/1848394/unhcr-and-iom-respond-to-rohingya-refugee-tragedy-off-aceh-coas