Five Rohingya found dead after Indonesia boat capsize: UN

Five Rohingya found dead after Indonesia boat capsize: UN

JAKARTA (AFP): The bodies of at least five Rohingya refugees have been recovered off Indonesia’s westernmost coast after their boat believed to be carrying around 150 people capsized last week, United Nations officials said Monday.

The mostly Muslim ethnic Rohingya are heavily persecuted in Myanmar, and thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys, often in flimsy boats, to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

Indonesian rescuers called off the search for any remaining Rohingya refugees on Friday after 75 were rescued, despite reports from some survivors that dozens of people were swept away when their boat and another trying to help them capsized days earlier.

“One more dead body found,” United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) protection associate Faisal Rahman told AFP after local authorities confirmed four bodies had been recovered a day earlier.

UNHCR Indonesia spokesperson Mitra Suryono said four bodies were found off the coast of Aceh Jaya district on the northern tip of Sumatra and one in West Aceh, where the capsize took place 16 nautical miles (30 kilometres) off the coast.

Iswahyudi, deputy chief of West Aceh police who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP the fifth body was a male found on Sunday night by fishermen.

On Thursday, authorities staged a dramatic rescue of 69 Rohingya who had been adrift at sea for weeks before the boat capsized, with many found clinging to the hull of the overturned vessel. Six others were rescued by fishermen on Wednesday.

From mid-November to late January, 1,752 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, landed in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra, according to the UNHCR.

The UN agency said it was the biggest influx into the Muslim-majority country since 2015, driven by worsening conditions in squalid camps in Bangladesh and the continuing threat of violence in the Rohingya’s native Myanmar.