Indonesian fishermen rescued 76 Rohingya Muslims stranded off the coast of Aceh on Friday, authorities said, in the latest attempt by members of the persecuted ethnic group to flee Myanmar by sea.
The police chief of Bireuen regency in Aceh on the island of Sumatra, Riza Yulianto, said the group of eight children, 25 women and 43 men was brought ashore in their wooden boat Friday afternoon. It was unclear how long they had been at sea, reports AP.
They wanted to go to Australia
Aceh’s Disaster Mitigation Agency said the Rohingya told local authorities that they wanted to reach Australia.
The agency was coordinating with the local government to provide temporary shelter. It said seven people were given medical treatment.
Officials were interviewing the refugees, and villagers had donated clothes and food, said Hidayatullah from the local civic group Rapid Response Action.
Exodus and rescue
Myanmar’s persecution of its Rohingya Muslim minority has sparked an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August. Some have also tried to flee by boat.
An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya Muslims found in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6 after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
About 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar’s western Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh in the past seven months to escape a brutal counter-insurgency campaign by Myanmar’s army.
Treated as undesirables
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional concern.