Sun, Apr 22, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Indonesian fishermen rescue 76 Rohingya near Aceh

AP, BIREUEN, Indonesia

Indonesian fishermen on Friday rescued 76 Rohingya Muslims stranded off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh Province, authorities said, in the latest attempt by members of the persecuted ethnic group to flee Myanmar by sea.

The group of eight children, 25 women and 43 men was taken ashore in their wooden boat on Friday afternoon.

It was unclear how long they had been at sea, said Riza Yulianto, the police chief of Bireuen Regency in Aceh on the island of Sumatra.

The Rohingya told authorities that they wanted to reach Australia, the Aceh Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

The agency said it was coordinating with the local government to provide temporary shelter, adding that seven people were given medical treatment.

Officials were interviewing the refugees, and villagers had donated clothes and food, said Hidayatullah of local civic group Rapid Response Action.

Hidayatullah, who uses one name, said fisherman went to the aid of the Rohingya after seeing the boat at about 2pm.

Its sail was not working, he said.

Myanmar’s persecution of its Rohingya Muslim minority has sparked an exodus of about 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August last year. Some have also tried to flee by boat.

Myanmar’s military said it was carrying out counterinsurgency operations.

An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five people died.

Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and took the vessel and its passengers to shore.

Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional concern.

The International Organization for Migration said the Indonesian government had asked it to send a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.

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