UN investigates origin of Rohingya refugees in Indonesia

PIDIE, Indonesia (HPD) — A United Nations agency is seeking travel information on the more than 100 Rohingya Muslim refugees who washed ashore on an Indonesian beach this week and warned Tuesday there were likely to be more.

A harrowing video shared widely on social media showed dehydrated and exhausted Rohingya, many calling for help.

At least 185 men, women and children disembarked from a rickety wooden boat on Monday evening at Ujong Pie beach in Muara Tiga, a coastal town in Aceh’s Pidie district, local police chief Fauzi said. , which answers to a single name.

“They are very weak from dehydration and exhaustion after weeks at sea,” Fauzi said.

Muhammad Rafki Syukri, a protection associate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the agency will provide Rohingya-language translators and advice to determine if they were among the group of 190 Rohingya who the UN reports said were about to drifting in a small boat in the Andaman Sea for a month.

“With a protracted conflict and insecurity in their country of origin, it is possible that the mobility of refugees in search of safe places will continue to increase,” he warned.

Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, which works in support of Myanmar’s Rohingya, confirmed on Tuesday that the ship that landed on Ujong Pie beach on Monday belonged to the group of 190 Rohingya who the United Nations said had been living for a month. adrift in the Andaman Sea.

However, Syukri said UNHCR has not been able to verify that information and is still coordinating with governments in the region.

“But we will keep looking for more information to guarantee the real data,” Syukri told reporters on Tuesday, while visiting Rohingya refugees at a school that is closed for the Christmas season in the village of Muara Tiga.

These refugees were part of five groups of Rohingya refugees who had left the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh in late November in small boats to avoid detection by local coast guards, he explained to the HPD by email, before being transferred to five larger boats for their respective trips.

The fourth and fifth vessels “finally arrived in northern Aceh, Indonesia, early Sunday morning and late Monday afternoon,” Lewa said, after his organization had pleaded for weeks for help from South and Southeast Asian countries. .

One of the refugees, who spoke some Malay and gave his name as Rosyid, told The Associated Press that they left a camp in Bangladesh in late November and drifted across the open sea. He said at least “20 of us died on board due to high waves and sick, and their bodies were thrown into the sea.”

Myanmar security forces have been accused of mass rape, murder and burning of thousands of homes belonging to Rohingya, sending them fleeing to Bangladesh and beyond.

Malaysia has been a common destination for many of the refugees arriving by boat, but they have also been detained in the country.

Although neighboring Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, UNHCR noted that a 2016 presidential regulation provides a legal framework governing the treatment of refugees on ships near Indonesia and allowing them to disembark.

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Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Grant Peck in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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