Rohingya Refugee Boat Stranded off Aceh

Indonesian authorities and humanitarian groups said a boat carrying scores of Rohingya refugees, including women and children, was stranded in waters off the coast of Aceh province on Sumatra island on Monday.

Badruddin Jusuf, a local fishing community leader, estimated the number aboard at 120.

Amnesty International said the fishermen had appealed to local authorities to rescue the stranded Rohingya.

“There needs to be a joint responsibility between regional countries to conduct search and rescue so that (refugees) can avoid dangers at sea,” Amnesty Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was working with local authorities to rescue the group.

Meanwhile, local media Benarnews reported that security forces in Aceh prevented locals from helping the refugees come ashore.

“Local fishermen were not allowed to bring the refugees [ashore],” Syahrul Putra Muti, Director of the Banda Aceh Legal Aid Institute, said.

In June, a court in Aceh sentenced three fishermen to five years in prison for people smuggling after they helped bring people from a Rohingya boat to shore last year in return for payments.

“I suspect that local Acehnese fishermen are now afraid to do the same because they don’t want to be arrested by the security forces,” Syahrul added.

According to UNHCR, as of October, at least 665 Rohingya migrants have ended up stranded in Indonesia on their way to third countries.

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