HUNDREDS OF REFUGEES RESCUED OFF INDONESIAN COAST

Witnesses in Aceh said that many of the rescued migrants were in tears when they made it to land, with many very sick and weak. (ANTARA FOTO/Rony Muharrman)
Witnesses in Aceh said that many of the rescued migrants were in tears when they made it to land, with many very sick and weak. (ANTARA FOTO/Rony Muharrman)

Aceh, Indonesia, 2 Sha’ban 1436/20 May 2015 (MINA) – About 400 refugees have been rescued by local fishermen in the Strait of Malacca, off Indonesia’s Aceh province, after their stricken boat was reportedly turned away numerous times from the Thai and Malaysian coasts by authorities.

The rescue occurred hours before the governments of Malaysia and Indonesia issued a statement saying they would “continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those 7,000 irregular migrants still at sea” and offer them temporary shelter, provided they were resettled and repatriated within a year, Al Jazeera reports as quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA).

Khairul Nova, a search and rescue official, said the rescue took place at 2 am local time on Wednesday (19:00 GMT Tuesday) and those saved included woman and children. The people rescued were later taken to Simpang Tiga village, in East Aceh district, he said.

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Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen reported that the rescued boat was the same one that made international headlines last week when it was found floating off Thailand’s coast, after its captain and crew had apparently fled.

Witnesses in Aceh said that many of the rescued migrants were in tears when they made it to land, with many very sick and weak.

Migrants told Al Jazeera they had been sent away by the Thai navy on three occasions and Malaysian authorities twice.

The second time they were rebuffed by Malaysian authorities, they say they were held at gunpoint and told that their ship would be bombed if they did not turn around.

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About 1,500 Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar, fleeing persecution, and Bangladeshis, seeking to escape grinding poverty, have already arrived in Aceh in recent days after being abandoned by people smugglers.

They are among several thousands who have made it to land in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand after being dumped by smugglers following the disruption of long-established human-trafficking routes. (T/P001/NMT)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)