Jakarta: UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has applauded the Indonesian Government for allowing the disembarkation yesterday evening, of 105 (8 men, 50 women, 47 children) Rohingya refugees who had for days been stranded on a boat in the open seas near Aceh, Indonesia.
The boat, whose passengers are overwhelmingly women and children, had been at sea in dangerous conditions for three weeks.
The damaged, unseaworthy boat was first sighted in the waters near Bireuen in northern Aceh on December 26.
"We are grateful that Indonesia and its people have once again proven their humanitarian spirit and shown that saving lives must always be the top priority. It is a humanitarian imperative to facilitate the immediate disembarkation of vessels in distress and to prevent the loss of life," said Ann Maymann, UNHCR Representative in Indonesia, in a press release on Friday.
Indonesia has several times set an example to others in the region, having also provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to Rohingya in distress at sea in 2015, 2018 and 2020.
Most recently, 81 Rohingya refugees were rescued off the coast of East Aceh in June 2021.
Upon their disembarkation, it is equally crucial that the refugees are provided with safe and humane reception conditions coupled with access to international protection, including asylum procedures. UNHCR staff are on the ground and working in close coordination with the Government, the local community, other UN agencies and NGO partners to ensure that the refugees receive immediate assistance. This includes medical care and health screenings in accordance with international standards and public health protocols on COVID-19.
UNHCR reiterates its call for states in the region to come together on the principles of solidarity and responsibility sharing to address the protection and humanitarian needs of refugees and asylum-seekers at sea.