Rohingya refugees stranded in small island west of Indonesia


Published: 2023-11-22 11:01

Last Updated: 2024-04-16 13:14

Rohingya refugees stranded in small island west of Indonesia
Rohingya refugees stranded in small island west of Indonesia

Huddled on a beach after a sleepless night, a group of around 200 Rohingya refugees sit on the sand of a western Indonesian island, cordoned off by yellow tape meant to stop them from running away.

Locals in Sabang, in Aceh Province, have refused to accept the members of the persecuted Myanmar minority after they landed overnight, and were trying to push them back out to sea Wednesday.

But some of the Rohingya refused, leading to a stalemate on the beach where some people could be heard crying and others were passed out from exhaustion, using bags for pillows and shawls for blankets, surrounded by washed-up ocean debris.

"We have been suffering 15 days at the sea," refugee Abdul Rahman (15) told AFP.

"We are very worried now. We don't want to go anywhere else, we only want to stay in this country."

This is the third time in a week that Acehnese locals have sought to push hundreds of Rohingya refugees back out to sea after they reached the shore.

Last week locals prevented a boat from docking, forcing some exhausted Rohingya to swim to land to plead with them to allow their fellow passengers to disembark.

Including the stranded arrivals in Sabang, more than 1,000 Rohingya have landed on Aceh's shores in the last week, according to local officials.

Next to screaming babies, some children on the beach Wednesday whacked the sand and built sandcastles, seemingly oblivious to the fractious situation unfolding around them, while others tried to cover their faces from the sun on the shadeless strip of ground.

The night before, after landing, the large group sat together in rows surrounded by locals and security officers, with only flashlights illuminating them on the beachfront, according to images and footage shared with AFP by the United Nations.

Instead of being taken to shelter, the group -- which includes 91 women and 56 children -- was kept on the sand overnight without bedding.

Abdul Rahman said the arrivals had come from different camps in Bangladesh, and many had been in Kutupalong, the world's biggest refugee camp.