Media Release From Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
For Immediate Release
Tuesday 27 December 2022
Aceh rescue of Rohingya refugees must be a wakeup call to the world
The international community must follow the lead of the people of Indonesia’s Aceh province, where hundreds of starved and desperate Rohingya were rescued in recent days after being stranded at sea for weeks, said the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK).
A boat carrying some 180 Rohingya men, women and children washed ashore in Aceh on Monday. The day before, local fishermen had helped rescue another boat carrying some 57 Rohingya men. The Rohingya had apparently been stranded at sea in horrific conditions since leaving Bangladesh in November, with more than a dozen people reportedly dying during the journey.
“The people of Aceh in Indonesia have, once again, showed the world what the true meaning of compassion is. We Rohingya express our profound gratitude to those Acehnese who have risked their own safety to save the lives of our brothers and sisters stranded at sea,” said Tun Khin, President of BROUK.
“Governments in the region and beyond must follow this example and do everything they can to help refugees. These are people who have survived a genocide and have taken to boats in a desperate attempt to find dignity and safety.”
Rohingya have for years taken to boats to flee an ongoing genocide in Myanmar or overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh. According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, some 2,400 Rohingya have left Bangladesh on boats in 2022, a five-fold increase on the year before. Some 200 people are estimated to have lost their lives on such journeys since January.
The boat that arrived in Aceh on Monday had apparently left Bangladesh in November. Survivors described horrific conditions on board with a lack of access to food and water, while more than a dozen people reportedly died during the journey.
This is far from the first time that Aceh has become a safe haven for Rohingya refugees thanks to local residents. In September 2020, for example, Acehnese fishermen rescued almost 300 Rohingya people off UJong Blang Beach in Lhokseumawe town, after the Indonesian government had initially refused them disembarkation.
In recent years, governments in South and Southeast Asia – including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand – have at various times refused boats carrying Rohingya refugees to land on their shores, and even pushed boats back out to sea. This is a clear violation of international human rights law, which bans states from refusing entry to those fleeing persecution or serious human rights violations.
BROUK urges regional governments to open their borders to Rohingya refugees on boats, and ensuring that those who arrive are afforded the medical care and other assistance they need, while respecting their right to seek asylum. States should also better coordinate search-and-rescue efforts to ensure that Rohingya are not stranded for prolonged periods at sea in appalling conditions.
“It is shameful that, once again, people in Aceh have had to carry out the rescues of refugees that regional governments are supposed to do. Governments in Asia and beyond must do everything they can to save Rohingya men, women and children stranded at sea to prevent such needless loss of life in the future. The international community must coordinate search-and-rescue efforts and allow Rohingya to land in safety on their shores,” said Tun Khin.
For more information, contact Tun Khin on +44(0)7888714866.