JAKARTA/NEW DELHI: Activists on Saturday called on the Indonesian government to rescue hundreds of Rohingya refugees who have been adrift in boats in the Indian Ocean for weeks.
Two boats carrying refugees, including women and children, entered Indonesian waters near the northernmost province of Aceh on Friday night, according to Amnesty International.
“Both boats have children on board, according to reports. As of midday on Saturday, there have been no rescue operations. the group said in a statement.
“Many people in Indonesia, Australia and around the world are ready to celebrate Christmas. We urge you to rescue the boat and allow it to disembark safely.”
The boats are believed to be two of five that left the shores of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s largest Rohingya refugee settlement, in late November and attempted to cross the Andaman Sea to another host country. increase.
In early December, 154 refugees on one boat were rescued by a Vietnamese offshore company and handed over to the Myanmar Navy, and on December 18, 104 on another boat were rescued by the Sri Lanka Navy. was done.
The UN refugee agency on Saturday urged countries in the region to “save lives”, citing unconfirmed reports that at least 20 people have already died in one of the missing boats.
Cox’s Bazar Rohingya activist Mohammed Rezwan Khan said his sister and niece were on board one of the ships near Indonesian waters and said in a broadcast message sent to journalists that the ship had been “struck into Indonesian waters by the Indian Navy. was pulled by,” he said.
“We urge the Indonesian government to disembark them urgently,” Khan told Arab News.
“It’s been about a month since they’ve been out at sea, so it’s very important what land they reach and what land they land on. So it’s very dire at the moment.”
He said the boat, which has 160 people on board, has been adrift off the coast of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and India since its engine failed in early December.
Activists say calls for help are becoming more and more urgent, but South Asian countries have yet to send official aid or show their willingness to do so.
Wisnu Pramandita, spokesman for the Indonesian Coast Guard, told Arab News that authorities had not yet spotted any vessels in the country’s waters.
Reza Maulana of Geutanyoe, an Aceh-based humanitarian organization working with Rohingya refugees in Indonesia, said technical or political issues should not be used as arguments to avoid humanitarian action. rice field.
“It’s beyond all technology,” he said. “Rescuing endangered refugees is imperative at all costs.”
Priyali Sur, founder of the Azadi Project, a Chennai-based organization that helps refugees, said he received a photo of a boy on one of the boats reportedly drowned with his family. .
“All of these countries have forced their entire populations to support themselves and most die at sea,” Sur said.
Arab News was unable to immediately confirm any photos or reports that the boat had sunk.
In 2017, more than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh after a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military.
In poor and overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya refugees face increasingly complex uncertainties, forcing them to make perilous journeys in search of a better life.
“I think we need a global outreach to understand what we can do regarding the resettlement of this community,” Sur said.
“When refugees started pouring in from Ukraine, many countries openly accepted them. Why not with the Rohingya?”