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Indonesia Agrees to Rescue Rohingya Refugees Stranded in a Boat Following International Appeals

After unclearing the official stance of the Indonesian government for about a week, an Indonesian navy ship towed a wooden ship carrying about 120 Rohingya refugees, whose engine broke down causing a leak that threatens to sink the boat, according to eyewitnesses from the nearest coast of Indonesia.

Before the Indonesian government took a decision to rescue the ship, sailors and fishermen from Aceh had seen the ship staggering about 70 miles from the coast of the province, but the authorities did not allow them to tow the ship and rescue those in it, and only provided them with food supplies, as a number of fishermen mentioned to the media.

Videos taken by fishermen went viral on social media in recent days, talking about the situation of the refugees on board the ship, especially since it will not be easy for them to reach Thai or Malaysian waters, so the ship was forced to head south towards the waters of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, like other refugee ships.

Subsequently, local and military officials in Aceh province appeared in front of the local media in Birin province to confirm that the ship was still outside Indonesian waters and not within Indonesia’s legal responsibility, and that they would accompany it towards international waters towards Malaysia so that Indonesian waters would not be an easy crossing for ships illegally, two days after the ship’s approached Indonesian waters.

Pictures showed the towing of the wooden ship towards the port of Loximawi Prefecture in Aceh Province (northeast of Sumatra Island), and the rescue operation that took place on Thursday took 13 hours, the first time that the Indonesian Navy intervened to rescue Rohingya refugees from the waters of the Indian Ocean.

We call on the Indonesian government to rescue them or allow them to be disembarked on its territory and recall the 2016 presidential decree by President Jokowi on the protection of refugees, which authorises the relevant authorities to rescue and care for refugees who come on boats near Indonesia. The presidential decree which has been in effect since 2018, contributed to the rescue of large numbers of Rohingya refugees who sailed towards Indonesia after fleeing persecution and oppression in their country.

We stress the need to uphold human rights values, coordinate efforts and rescue Rohingya refugees, and issue an order to allow them to disembark in Indonesian territory on an emergency basis, provide them with health and psychological care and provide them with shelter.

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