IOM Indonesia Assists Rohingya Rescued After Four Months at Sea

Rohingya Crisis

North Aceh, Indonesia - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has joined coordinated efforts to help 99 Rohingya, mostly women and children, rescued by local fishermen on Wednesday after being stranded at sea for more than 120 days. 

The group comprised of 23 families (73 persons), 11 single adult females, nine female unaccompanied children, four single adult males and two male unaccompanied children were allowed to disembark yesterday with the agreement of the local community who were concerned about the welfare of the children.  

IOM Indonesia’s advance team is providing medical and operational support with registration and the initial assessment of the group, as well as much-needed food, water and hygiene packages.  

Speaking this morning to IOM staff via an interpreter, a spokesperson from the group said they set off from Balukhali camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh four months and 10 days ago. 

He said they were all originally from Rakhine state, Myanmar.  

He added that one woman died during the journey leaving behind two children. Another three children, two of them siblings, and a 10-year-old girl were unaccompanied. The group also included one pregnant woman.  

The spokesperson said, “We set off on foot, through the hills to Shamlapur [Cox’s Bazar] from where we took small boats that brought us to a bigger boat at sea. The captain of the big boat was a man from Myanmar. Our original destination was supposed to be Malaysia, where we were supposed to pay 10,000 Ringgit (USD2,300.00) each upon arrival.”  

He said the boat was arranged by a ‘Rohingya who lived abroad’.  

“Rapid tests for COVID19 conducted last night reveal that all tested negative,” said Louis Hoffmann, IOM Chief of Mission in Indonesia. 

“This is good news as we are very mindful, of course, of community concerns over public health issues and we are providing ongoing support to the authorities through our medical teams alongside UNHCR’s registration team.”  

Roughly 1,400 Rohingya found themselves stranded at sea during the 2020 sailing season, which typically ends with the arrival of the monsoon in early June. At least 130 have died. Malaysian officials report at least 300 are on a vessel off the coast of Koh Adang island in Thailand. 

On May 28, IOM issued a statement urging Rohingya stranded at sea to be allowed to disembark. 

“A coordinated response to this situation, inclusive of search and rescue operations and safe disembarkation, is urgently needed to ensure that those who are still stranded at sea can be brought to safety on land,” IOM’s Director General António Vitorino said at the time. 

During the 2015 Andaman Sea crisis, Indonesia agreed to accept several stranded vessels loaded with migrants on humanitarian grounds. A total of 1,820 Rohingya and Bangladeshi nationals were absorbed into IOM’s caseload.  

For more information, please contact Patrik Shirak, at IOM Indonesia, Tel: +622157951275, Email: [email protected] or Itayi Viriri at IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Tel: +63 917 890 8785, Email: [email protected] 

  • IOM staff assist some of the 99 Rohingya who disembarked in Aceh, Indonesia. Photo: IOM Indonesia 

  • Some of the 99 Rohingya who disembarked in Aceh, Indonesia after being stranded at sea for over 120 days. Photo: IOM Indonesia 

  • Some of the 99 Rohingya who disembarked in Aceh, Indonesia. Photo: UNHCR

  • The 99 Rohingya who disembarked in Aceh, Indonesia are taken to local centre. Photo: IOM Indonesia 

  • Some of Rohingya women being taken to a local centre. Photo: IOM Indonesia