A Rohingya mother and her five-year-old daughter have been found among 200 people rescued in Indonesia after being adrift on a boat for nearly a month.

Mohammed Rezuwan Khan, a Rohingya refugee living in a camp in Bangladesh, told Sky News his sister Hatemonnesa and niece Umme Salima were rescued by Indonesian authorities on Monday.

They were among some 160 Rohingya who left Bangladesh for Malaysia on a large boat in late November, which became stranded after an engine failure.

Men, women and children were rescued from the rickety wooden ship on Boxing Day after it ran aground on Ujong Pie beach in Aceh province, on the northwestern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Indonesian fishermen and local authorities saved over 200 people in total between Sunday and Monday, the majority being women and children.

Left without supplies and in the middle of the sea, a number of people are said to have died of starvation during the perilous journey, but Hatemonnesa and her young child were among those who survived.

Mr Rezuwan Khan said he was crying when he managed to speak with his family on a video call, having been unable to contact them for a month.

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“We felt like we had a whole new world today,” he said, adding that mother and daughter looked exhausted.

He explained that his sister decided to embark on the risky journey due to the dire conditions in the refugee camp in Bangladesh, and hoped to find better opportunities for her daughter in Malaysia.

Image:
Mohammad Rezuwan Khan and Umme Salima

Exhausted and dehydrated

In a phone call on December 18a person on the ship was heard saying “we are dying here” and “we are starving”, adding that some had already lost their lives.

Those rescued over the past two days were exhausted and dehydrated and told the HRC that some 26 people died due to the dire conditions on board.

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Rohingya refugees stranded at sea

According to the UN, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people attempting to cross the Andaman Sea from Bangladesh and Myanmar this year, with more than 1,900 people dying since January.

Most of those risking their lives are Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar by the hundreds of thousands in 2017 to escape military persecution.

Security forces in Myanmar have been accused of mass rapes and murders of Rohingyas and burning down thousands of their homes.

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