BANDA ACEH, INDONESIA — At least 69 Rohingya refugees, many of them women and children, landed on Indonesia’s west coast Thursday in a wooden boat, an official with the United Nations refugee agency said.
The vessel came ashore at a beach in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh, according to UNHCR official Oktina Hafanti, with one passenger saying some on board died during the voyage.
It was the sixth Rohingya boat to land in Indonesia since November.
Around a million Rohingya are estimated to be living in refugee camps in Bangladesh after they fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar in 2017.
Thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys — often in poor-quality boats — attempting to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.
“We currently count 69 of them, including men, women and children,” Hafanti said.
The refugees were being transported to a temporary shelter nearby, the official added.
Hafanti said authorities would double-check the headcount after they arrived at the refuge.
According to a passenger who gave his name as Shorifuddin, the boat departed Bangladesh two weeks ago.
Several people died due to a lack of food and the captain abandoned the passengers in the middle of the journey, he said.
“We have been suffering in the ocean for 15 days and all this time, we didn’t have enough food,” the 15-year-old told AFP.
He said he fled Bangladesh with seven family members including his parents hoping for a better life in Indonesia.
“We were strongly persecuted in Bangladesh by the local people. We also didn’t have the opportunity to study and achieve higher education,” he said.
Five other vessels carrying Rohingya refugees landed in Indonesia in November and December last year, carrying a total of nearly 700 passengers.
More than 2,000 are believed to have attempted the risky journey in 2022, according to the UNHCR, a number similar to that in 2020.
The agency estimated nearly 200 Rohingya died or went missing last year attempting hazardous sea crossings.