BIREUEN, Indonesia (Reuters) – Over 100 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar arrived by boat on the shores of Indonesia’s Aceh province in the early hours of Sunday, an NGO group at the scene said.
Authorities were unsure for how long the 114 refugees, including 35 children, had been at sea, but some needed medical assistance when they arrived in Bireuen, Aceh, Nurul Yana Daba, a volunteer for the NGO Aksi Cepat Tanggap, told reporters.
“One female refugee got swellings on her arms and legs and is unable to stand or walk, while one man, maybe because they’ve been at sea for too long, is a bit malnourished,” Nurul said.
Mukhtar, a local villager, said the Rohingya refugees walked into his village to seek help.
“They were asking for protection. We will leave it to the government. We are taking them in because it’s the humane thing to do,” he said.
Local official Alfian said villagers arranged food for the refugees but did not expect they would stay long at his village.
In December, the Indonesian navy rescued more than 100 Rohingya refugees who were adrift on a sinking boat off the western coast of Indonesia. After initial resistance to let them disembark, the authorities relented and subsequently bowed to international pressure to give them refuge.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees and is predominately seen as a transit country for those seeking asylum to a third country.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after a military-led crackdown in 2017, and were forced into squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh. U.N. investigators concluded that the military campaign had been executed with “genocidal intent”.
Some have fled by sea, sailing to countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia between November and April when the seas are calm. Hundreds of them came to Aceh in intervals in recent years.
(Reporting by Stringer in Bireuen; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)