Over 900 asylum seekers rescued off Indonesian coast
Monday, May 18, 2015
On Friday, fishermen rescued over 700 asylum seekers whose boat sank, and the Indonesian Navy reportedly saved 200 more after they were found swimming along the coast of Aceh, Indonesia.
Major general Fuad Basya, spokesman for the Indonesian military, said fisherman first noticed the people and a warship was deployed to retrieve them. The rescued members included Bangladeshis and Rohingya, a stateless minority of Muslims from Myanmar. Myanmar is mainly Buddhist and the United Nations rates the Rohingya among the world's most persecuted groups. According to ABC News, Basya also believes the asylum seekers found in the water may have left the boat on purpose to be rescued to avoid being sent away from Indonesia waters.
Malaysia and Indonesia have maintained a policy of turning away boats of migrants which, according to AFP, the Untied Nations and United States have both criticised.
One Rohingya, Muhammad Amin, the first boat rescued on Friday was turned around twice, toward Malaysia by Indonesian navy and then toward Indonesia by Malaysian navy.
Discussing his concern in a public statement, Malaysia's Prime Minister, Najib Razak said, "We are in contact with all relevant parties, with whom we share the desire to find a solution to this crisis".
Thailand has recently cracked down on human trafficking, which has affected the routes by which people-smugglers transport migrants.
The US State Department said John Kerry, the Secretary of State, contacted Thailand's foreign minister over temporary housing for the Rohingya out at sea. Jeff Rathke, the State Department Spokesperson, said, "We urge the governments of the region to work together quickly, first and foremost, to save the lives of migrants now at sea who are in need of an immediate rescue effort". Rathke also asked the governments of South East Asia not to turn away boats of people seeking asylum.
Estimates suggest 8000 migrants may be currently at sea in the region.
- Nurdin Hasan (AFP). "'As we were swimming, we cried for help': Over 900 migrants rescued as pressure grows over South-East Asia crisis" — The Age, May 16, 2015
- "Indonesian navy rescues 200 from ocean near Aceh, after 750 saved earlier" — The Guardian, May 15, 2015
- George Roberts. "Indonesia's navy rescues 200 more asylum seekers from waters of Aceh" — ABC News (Australia), May 15, 2015
- AFP/Reuters. "At least 750 migrants rescued off Indonesia by local fishermen after boat sinks, police say" — ABC News (Australia), May 15, 2015