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Aceh Fishermen Rescue 68 Rohingya Asylum Seekers From Indian Ocean

Ethnic Rohingya
refugees from Myanmar wave as they are transported by a wooden boat to a
temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar in this April 8, 2013 file
photo. (Reuters Photo/Junaidi Hanafiah)
By Nurdin Hasan 
July 28, 2013
Banda Aceh. Fishermen
rescued a more than 60 Rohingya asylum seekers stranded in a boat off the coast
of Aceh Jaya on Sunday — the third disabled Rohingya boat found floating in the
Indian Ocean this year.
The 68 Rohingya —
including a pregnant woman and two babies — told Aceh officials they boarded
the boat after being threatened with deportation in Malaysia.
“The asylum seekers
who could speak Malay said they departed from Malaysia four days ago and were
heading to Australia to apply for asylum,” Rizal Dinata, the head of Aceh Jaya
branch Indonesian Inter-Citizen Radio (RAPI), said.
Shortly after leaving
Malaysia, the asylum seekers’ compass and global positioning system (GPS) were
damaged, Rizal reported. The wind and currents pushed the boat toward Aceh,
where it became stranded off the coast of Aceh Jaya.
The Rohingya told
Rizal they fled their home villages in Myanmar’s coastal Arakan region amid a
recent surge in anti-Muslim violence. They spent several days in Malaysia
before deciding to chance the perilous journey to Australia’s Christmas Island.
The asylum seekers
were in good health and fasting for the holy month of Ramadan, Rizal said. Some
had Bangladesh citizenship, one was Vietnamese, Rizal said.
“There are two people
who were sick and they were taken to Teuku Umar Calang General Hospital [and
admitted to] intensive care,” he said.
The others were
transported to an orphanage in Calang, Aceh Jaya, overseen by the local Social
Affairs Office. Immigration officials from Meulaboh, West Aceh, interviewed the
asylum seekers and collected data.
Asylum seeker boats
continue to arrive in Indonesia despite Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s
implementation of a hard-line immigration policy that shut the nation’s doors
to even “legitimate refugees.”
Under the new policy,
all asylum seekers, regardless of their circumstances, will be settled in
neighboring Papua New Guinea — a controversial move that has garnered criticism
from human rights groups.
In early April, 76
Rohingya asylum seekers were found in a disabled boat off Pulo Aceh. In
February, 121 Rohingya were rescued off the coast of North Aceh.
The number of asylum
seekers fleeing Myanmar has increased eight-fold in Indonesia’s Aceh province
since 2009 as hard-line Buddhists launched a violent campaign targeting
Myanmar’s Muslim minority.