Stranded in Andaman Sea: Boat with 160 Rohingya Refugees Rescued by Indonesians

As per Rezuwan Khan, a refugee in Bangladesh, at least 12 people who were in the boat died at sea.

3 min read

After being stranded in the Andaman Sea for nearly a month, a boat carrying over 160 Rohingya refugees was finally rescued by Indonesian civilians and fishing boats on Monday, 26 December.

In three videos accessed by The Quint, Indonesian civilians can be seen helping Rohingya refugees to the shore. Two 30-second clips show men, women, and children, looking emaciated, walking to the shore, drenched, and falling to the ground at Indonesia’s Aceh Island.

After having starved for nearly a month, the people — who left for Malaysia from Bangladesh on 26 November — can be heard crying. Another five-second clip shows civilians handing out water, food, and clothes to the refugees.

Rezuwan Khan, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar, whose sister is on the boat with her five-year-old daughter, told The Quint, “A Rohingya refugee from Indonesia just informed me that the boat has been rescued by fishing boats and civilians. I am right now trying to find out if my sister and niece are alive.”

As per Khan, at least 12 people who were in that boat died at sea.

The boat had left from Bangladesh for Malaysia on 25 November, and suffered an engine failure on 1 December.

The Quint had first reported on the stranded boat on 13 December, with kin of those on board raising alarm for rescue and humanitarian aid.

As per a phone call dated 18 December between the boatman and Khan, the boat had reached Indian waters, after being stranded in the Strait of Malacca. Khan had also shared the GPS coordinates of the boat with The Quint.

Civilians Come to the Rescue

With extreme water and food shortages, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had been urging member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to urgently rescue the starving refugees.

On being asked why Rohingya refugees are undertaking the risky journey on non-seaworthy vessels, Khan had told The Quint, “We know the journey is filled with risks but at the camp in Bangladesh we have no right to education or work. This is why people are taking such huge risks and fleeing… Hoping some country will give us refuge."

Since August 2017, over a million Rohingya were forcefully displaced from Buddhist-majority Myanmar to refugee camps in Bangladesh, in the aftermath of the violence unleased by the Myanmar military on the ethnic group.

The news of the stranded boat had come just a couple days after the UNHCR's "recent call for support and solidarity amid the rise in risky Andaman Sea crossings."  

The UN refugee agency had highlighted on 2 December:

"Some 1,920 people, mostly Rohingya, travelled by sea from January to November 2022, from Myanmar and Bangladesh, compared to only 287 in 2021, a more than six-fold increase."

This is believed to be triggered by the Myanmar military’s coup last year, which extinguished any hopes for repatriation of the refugees.

Khan and his family moved to Bangladesh from Myanmar over five years ago. “When we got to the camp, we expected repatriation will happen someday but after the Myanmar Junta’s coup last year, we have lost all hope. We have been living this life for five years, which is why everyone wants to flee,” he had told The Quint.   

(This is a developing story and will be updated.)

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Topics:  Indonesia   United Nations   Rohingya 

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