After spending more than a month adrift on a stricken boat with no food or water, dozens of starving Rohingya have been rescued in Indonesia, the UN refugee agency said on Sunday, offering a glimmer of hope. hope to the persecuted group who fled their refugee camps last month. looking for a better life.
Babar Baloch, spokesman for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for Asia, said 58 people believed to be from the boat had been rescued in Aceh, although fears remained for the lives of ‘about 130 other people – including many women and children – who are still stuck on board the ship.
“There are indications that local Indonesian fishermen may have carried out the rescue,” Baloch said. “We are still worried about the lives (of the remaining people). Hoping they would be rescued soon.
CNN contacted Indonesian police for comment, but did not hear back.
The boat was from Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, where around 1 million members of the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority live in refugee camps after fleeing a brutal campaign of killings and arson by Myanmar’s military in the west of Rakhine State.
At various times during its journey, the boat was spotted near India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Family members and aid agencies have been warning for weeks that people on the ship are on the brink of starvation after their food and water ran out. UNHCR said its previous calls for action had been “continuously ignored” by several countries in South and Southeast Asia.
The rescue comes just a day after the UN agency said around 180 Rohingya refugees aboard another ship missing at sea are now thought to be dead.
The second boat also began its “unfortunate” journey in late November and began to fall apart in early December, UNHCR said in a statement, citing unconfirmed reports.
“The relatives have lost contact. Last in contact assume all are dead,” the statement added. “We hope against all hope that this will not be the case.”
Since 2020, more than 3,000 Rohingya have attempted the risky journey from Bangladesh by sea, according to the UN. Two-thirds of those fleeing are women and children, he added.
Many seek refuge in the overcrowded refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, where conditions are dire and women are at risk of assault and sexual violence.
While all countries are bound by international law to rescue those in distress at sea, prompt action is not always forthcoming, particularly when it comes to Rohingya refugees.
Passengers have been turned away from some countries, while women have reported being assaulted during the journey.
According to Baloch, some 2,000 Rohingya undertook the risky sea voyage in 2022 alone. Of those, nearly 200 were reported missing, he added.
If reports of a feared 180 deaths are confirmed, it would make this year one of the deadliest for the persecuted group seeking refuge in a third country, Baloch said.
“We are hoping against all hope that the missing are still alive somewhere out there,” he added. “But if these fears are true, it will make for a tragic year of enormous proportions involving desperate people.”