Local villagers pull a boat of Rohingyas washed ashore in Indonesia – AFP

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR feared the death of 180 Rohingya after a light boat carrying Rohingyas floating in the sea for weeks sank. On Tuesday, the United Nations refugee agency reported the death of 20 Rohingya from the boat that floated off the coast of Aceh province, Indonesia.

Boats carrying hundreds of persecuted Muslims have landed in Indonesia and others are believed to have washed ashore in the Indian Ocean, Reuters reported.

A boat carrying 174 Rohingya washed ashore in Indonesia’s Aceh province on Monday, most of them dehydrated, exhausted and in need of urgent medical care after weeks at sea, local disaster agency officials said.

Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, which provides aid to the Rohingya, said the boat was still missing and feared to have sunk.

Rohingya refugees receive treatment at a temporary shelter in PD, Aceh province, Indonesia

2022 could be one of the deadliest years at sea for the Rohingya in nearly a decade, UNHCR said on Monday, as growing numbers of them desperately flee refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Rohingyas have long been persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which borders Bangladesh. Over the years, many have fled across the calm waters between November and April to countries such as Thailand and Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.

In 2017, about 2.7 million Rohingya who fled the brutal repression of the Myanmar military took refuge in Bangladesh.

Rights groups reported a significant increase in the number of people leaving the camps. The number has increased from around 500 last year to approximately 2,400 this year It is not clear what caused the greater emigration. Some activists speculate that the lifting of Covid restrictions around Southeast Asia or the Rohingya’s choice of destination could be a factor.

Umar Farooq, a Rohingya man, said, ‘We came here from the biggest Bangladeshi refugee camp with the hope that the Indonesian people would give us an education.’

The group is the latest in a series of boat landings and rescues around the region in recent weeks. They were accompanied by 57 other Rohingya who arrived in Aceh on Sunday.

Earlier this month, the Sri Lankan Navy rescued 104 Rohingya. Meanwhile, Thai authorities have rescued six others trapped in a floating water tank.

(Dhaka Times / 27 December / SAT)