Officials said that dozens of hungry and frail Rohingya refugees were found on a beach in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh after weeks at sea. Villagers who saw men of a predominantly Muslim ethnic group in rickety wooden boats helped them disembark and reported their arrival to authorities. “They look very weak from hunger and dehydration. He added that he had received food and water from villagers and others while waiting for further instructions from local authorities. At least three of his men were taken to a clinic for treatment, and others underwent various treatments, Away said. The United Nations and other groups called on South Asian countries on Friday to rescue up to 190 people believed to be Rohingya refugees from a small boat that had been adrift in the Andaman Sea for weeks.
“Reports indicate those onboard have now remained at sea for a month in dire conditions with insufficient food or water, without any efforts by States in the region to help save human lives,” the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said in a statement. “Many are women and children, with reports of up to 20 people dying on the unseaworthy vessel during the journey.” Away said it was not immediately clear where the group was traveling from or if they were part of the group of 190 Rohingya refugees that has been adrift in the Andaman Sea. But one of the men who spoke some Malay said they had been at sea for more than a month and had aimed to land in Malaysia to seek a better life and work there.
Although Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR said a 2016 presidential regulation provides a national legal framework governing the treatment of refugees on boats in distress near Indonesia and helps them disembark. These provisions have been implemented for years, most recently last month when about 219 Rohingya refugees, including 63 women and 40 children, were rescued off the coast of North Aceh district on board two rickety boats. On Thursday, Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, called on governments in South and Southeast Asia to “coordinate the search and rescue of this ship immediately and urgently to ensure the safe disembarkation of those on board.” from further casualties.