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Jakarta Post

Hundreds of Myanmarese Rohingya sheltered in Aceh sports hall

  • Hotli Simanjuntak

    The Jakarta Post

Banda Aceh   /   Tue, May 12, 2015   /  06:47 am

The police have evacuated hundreds of Rohingya asylum seekers fleeing Myanmar who have once again become stranded in Aceh after their boat broke down and drifted at sea.

'€œWe have evacuated them to the sports hall in Lhok Sukon city [in North Aceh] as part of the initial handling of the refugees,'€ said North Aceh Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Achmadi on Monday.

The immigrants are believed to have been attempting to sail to Malaysia before their boat encountered engine trouble and ran out of fuel, leaving them drifting in the middle of the ocean and stranding them in Aceh on Sunday.

As they were drifting at sea, local fishermen found them and tugged their boat to land with help from the police.

Dozens of women and children were among the boat passengers. All of them were in a state of hunger and thirst as they had run out of supplies.

'€œAll we can do now is to coordinate with various parties, be they the local administration or the International Organization for Migration [IOM], for further handling,'€ said Achmadi.

Based on a statement made by the asylum seekers to the police, their number might reach about 1,000, because besides the boat that was stranded in Aceh, there were several other boats making the journey with them.

'€œThey may already be in Malaysian waters, because they initially intended to seek asylum in Malaysia,'€ said Achmadi.

The North Aceh regency administration will provide emergency handling to help the asylum seekers.

'€œFor the time being we will house them in the sports hall because we are obliged to help people who are in need of help in a humanitarian situation,'€ said North Aceh Vice Regent Muhammad Jamil.

According to one of the asylum seekers, Muhammad Malik, they had initially intended to go to Malaysia to work. However, before arriving on Malaysian shores, the boat skipper fled using a speedboat, leaving his passengers stranded at sea.

'€œI'€™ve not eaten for almost three months. I'€™m pleased that we could be saved and meet the people in Aceh,'€ said Malik.

This is the eighth time Myanmarese citizens from the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group have become stranded in Aceh.

A group of 194 Rohingyas became stranded in Sabang on Jan 7, 2009, followed by 198 people on Feb. 3, 2009, in Idi Rayeuk, East Aceh; 129 on Feb. 16, 2011 off Krueng Raya, Aceh Besar; 54 on Feb. 1, 2012, off North Aceh; groups on Feb. 16 and Feb. 28, 2012, also off East Aceh; and a final group of 76 on April 7, 2013, also off East Aceh.

The Myanmarese immigrants are from the Rohingya ethnic group living in the predominantly Muslim Arakan state.

The Rohingyas, who are not recognized as a minority group by the Myanmar government, have become the target of attacks launched by the Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group.

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