Published on 20 May 2015 Sections , ,

Stranded at sea: Rohingya migrants offered shelter

Indonesia and Malaysia agree to end their policy of pushing migrants boats back out to sea, and instead say they will provide temporary shelter to thousands stranded at sea.

Rohingya migrants rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Wednesday

Above: Rohingya migrants rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Wednesday.

In what could be a breakthrough moment in South-East Asia’s migrant crisis, the two countries issued a joint statement saying they will continue to offer international assistance to 7,000 migrants adrift at sea and assist them with “resettlement and repatriation” within a year with international help.

They’ve got to be reached, they’ve got to be got on shore. Joe Lowry, IOM

“I urge all NGOs, of all races and religions to step forward to volunteer to help these Rohingya migrants,” Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said, following a meeting with his Indonesian and Thai counterparts.

“Even though they are a migrant community that is trying to enter the country illegally, and breaking immigration laws, their well-being should not be ignored.”

‘Maritime ping-pong’

The two countries, as well as Thailand, had been criticised by humanitarian organisations for playing “maritime ping-pong” with boats crammed full of migrants.

The countries were assisting boats with supplies and repairs, but refusing to let them land in their respective countries.

However, the new statement signals an end to this policy.

On Wednesday Joe Lowry, spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration, said rescues are not happening “fast enough” and “the talking as to stop”.

“There are people at sea who are in grave peril of losing their lives – yesterday, today and tomorrow,” he said. “And they’ve got to be reached, they’ve got to be got on shore.”

Rescued

Whilst political leaders have hesitated over what to do about the large number of Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshis in need of help, Indonesia’s fisherman have stepped in.

Early on Wednesday Indonesian fisherman brought hundreds more migrants to shore in Indonesia’s north western Aceh province, a search and rescue official said.

Fears had been growing for one boat that aid agencies had lost contact with on Saturday, but the more than 300 migrants on board were among those rescued on Wednesday.

The migrants have been landed in the town of Kuta Binje.

The latest group brought to shore adds to the nearly 1,400 who have managed to land in Indonesia after weeks of drifting in the Andaman Sea – either through swimming to shoe or being rescued by fisherman.

Rohingya migrants rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Wednesday

Fears had been growing for one boat that aid agencies had lost contact with on Saturday, but the more than 300 migrants on board were among those rescued on Wednesday.

The migrants have been landed in the town of Kuta Binje.

The latest group brought to shore adds to the nearly 1,400 who have managed to land in Indonesia after weeks of drifting in the Andaman Sea – either through swimming to shoe or being rescued by fisherman.

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