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Rohingya refugees find shelter as a boat lands in the Indonesian province of Aceh


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Rohingya refugees received emergency medical treatment after a boat carrying nearly 200 people washed ashore in Indonesia on Monday, authorities said, marking the fourth such landing in the country in recent months.

Every year, thousands of Rohingya, most of them Muslims, who are deeply persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, risk their lives on long and costly sea journeys – often in poor-quality vessels – in an effort to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

Local police spokesman Winardi said the wooden boat arrived around 5:30 pm (1030 GMT) on a beach in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh. “The 185 Rohingya migrants have landed in Pidi district. The figure includes 83 adult males, 70 adult females and 32 children,” Winardi, who uses one name, said in a statement.

Winardi added that the refugees were temporarily housed in a local facility, where health workers were treating those who were unwell.

According to AFP journalists, some of them looked very weak and thin, and drips were administered by the medical staff. Some of them are “severely dehydrated and some of the children are vomiting,” a health worker told AFP.

Details about the length and conditions of their journey were not immediately available, but one of the young expatriates said they set off from Bangladesh. “We came from a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh with the hope that Indonesia would give us an opportunity for education,” said Omar Farooq, 14.

“Some of the refugees landed in poor conditions,” said Marvian, a local fishing community leader at the scene shortly after the refugees’ arrival. “When they were ashore, the locals helped them with food.”

He noted that in recent years, some fishermen in Aceh have helped Rohingya boats reach the shore, but the last boat was carried ashore by the wind, as the fishermen became more reluctant to offer assistance.

Winardi stressed that the authorities are coordinating the response of the refugees, “considering that their arrival in Aceh has become more frequent.”

Monday’s boat landing in Aceh came a day after another ship carrying 57 Rohingya refugees washed ashore in the province after a month at sea. In November, two boats carrying a total of 229 Rohingya landed in the same district, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Relatively wealthy Malaysia is a favorite destination for refugees, but many first fall into Muslim-majority Indonesia, which is seen as more welcoming.

UN agencies and human rights groups have called on countries in the region to provide urgent assistance after several boats carrying Rohingya were reported to have been sailing for weeks in the Indian Ocean. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said over the weekend that nearly 180 Rohingya had been at sea for weeks and were feared dead after relatives said they had lost contact and assumed no one on board had survived.

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