Boat carrying Rohingya migrants rescued off Indonesia

Rohingya rescued

A boat carrying about 500 members of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim community has been rescued off northern Indonesia.

The boat – with many women and children on board – was stranded in waters off Aceh province when it was rescued.

Myanmar – also known as Burma – refuses to recognise Rohingya as citizens and hundreds of thousands have fled persecution in recent years.

Their main escape route has been the jungle border with Thailand, but many have also fled by sea.

“We received a report from fishermen this morning that there were boat people stranded,” Aceh provincial rescue chief Budiawan told AFP news agency on Sunday.

“We despatched teams there and evacuated 469 migrants who are Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis. So far, all of them are safe,” he added.

Destination Malaysia?

The group may have been trying to reach Malaysia, said Steve Hamilton of the International Organisation for Migration.

“Apparently four boats came ashore,” he said.

“Three of the boats later left. People thought they were in Malaysia, it [turned out] they were in Indonesia. They were left behind by the smugglers.”

Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar for many years.

In December, the UN passed a resolution urging Myanmar to give access to citizenship for the Rohingya, many of whom are classed as stateless.

The organisation estimates some 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis have boarded smugglers’ boats between January and March this year, double the amount as over the same period last year.