Rohingya tell stories of despair as they flee to Indonesia

PIDIE, Indonesia — Rohingya Muslims who survived 40 harrowing days on a boat across the Indian Ocean to end up in Indonesia have told stories of hunger and despair, saying more than 20 of those on board died en route.

A boat that came ashore in the Indonesian province of Aceh on the island of Sumatra on Monday was carrying 174 Rohingya, most of them dehydrated, fatigued and in need of urgent medical attention after weeks at sea, local agency officials said. of disasters.

One of the survivors, Shafiq Rahman, said 200 people had set sail in a small boat from Bangladesh in an attempt to reach Muslim-majority Indonesia, and 26 of them died at sea.

“We were afloat at sea for 40 days,” he said, adding that food supplies ran out after 10 days and the rickety ship soon leaked.

Rohingya men resting at a shelter in the Pidie district of Aceh province on Monday. Amanda Jufrian/AFP via Getty Images

“We reached this place safe and sound by the grace of Allah,” he said at a temporary shelter in Pidie district, where dozens of people were hooked up to intravenous drips as medics tended to their needs, as a woman was seen fanning sleeping children using a piece of cardboard

The Rohingya are a mainly Buddhist Muslim people in Myanmar, where they have long suffered from repression. Around 800,000 have fled to Bangladesh since 2017, and thousands have fled to destinations further afield in Southeast Asia.

Shafiq and others came to Indonesia to improve their lives and find an opportunity to study, he said.

Another survivor, Samusa Khatun, said she came to Indonesia to escape destitution and find work.

Theirs was the latest in a series of boat landings and rescues in the region in recent weeks as Rohingya flee desperate conditions in Bangladesh refugee camps and persecution in Myanmar in increasing numbers.

Rohingya refugees received emergency medical treatment after a ship carrying nearly 200 people disembarked in Indonesia on December 27, authorities said.
A Rohingya boy rests in a temporary shelter in Laweueng on Tuesday. President Mahyuddin / AFP – Getty Images

A boat carrying 180 people is believed to have sunk in early December and all on board are presumed dead, according to human rights groups. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday that 2022 could be one of the deadliest years at sea in nearly a decade for the Rohingya.

Rohingya trying to cross by sea into Thailand and Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia typically leave between November and April, when the seas are calmer.

Indonesia has seen nearly 500 Rohingya wash up on its shores in the past six weeks, according to UNHCR. The Security Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the government was working with the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR to move the Rohingya to shelters in nearby cities.