(Mizzima) – Fifty-four ethnic Rohingyas seeking to flee Burma were found adrift in the sea and rescued by Indonesian fisherman on Wednesday, according to the Jarkataglobe website.
Hungry and dehydrated, the seafarers were crammed into one wooden boat whose motor broke down.
The leader of a fishermen’s association in North Aceh’s Dewantara subdistrict who was involved in the rescue said the Rohingyas were about 12 miles off the coast. They were taken to a mosque in Blukat Teubai village, where villagers gave them food and shelter.
“Their condition was serious,” he told the newspaper. “A number of them were very weak. They saw a vessel full of passengers, just being washed back and forth on the waves. The boat’s passengers were calling out for help, food and water.”
There have been four known incidents in the past three years of Rohingya refugees rescued in Indonesian waters.
Many Rohingyas flee Burma, citing the lack of citizenship rights and economic and religious discrimination. They usually have hopes of settling in Malaysia or Australia.
Normally, if they are found at sea, they are handled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which then attempts to find a third-party country willing to accept them.
According to Amnesty International, the Muslim Rohingya people have suffered from human rights violations under the Burmese junta for decades and many have fled to neighboring Bangladesh as a result.
"The Rohingyas freedom of movement is severely restricted and the vast majority of them have effectively been denied Burma citizenship. They are also subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation; land confiscation; forced eviction and house destruction; and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps, although the amount of forced labour in northern Rakhine State has decreased over the last decade,” it said in a report.
Starting in the 1990s, an estimated quarter of a million Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh. Many now live in refugee camps along the border, often in dire living conditions.