İrem UZUN -TDO- Nearly 300 members of Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya minority have landed in Aceh province on Indonesia's Sumatra island after months at sea, a Red Cross official says. Police said fishermen spotted a wooden boat carrying the Rohingya several miles off the coast of Lhokseumawe city on Sumatra's northern coast. The group consisted of 181 women, 102 men and 14 children, who started their voyage from Bangladesh with Malaysia as their destination, Muhammad Waly, the head of the local Indonesian Red Cross said. "They are weak and some of them are ill," he added.
The Rohingya have for years been fleeing persecution in Myanmar for other south-east Asian nations. The arrival in Indonesia was the biggest seen since 2015, said Chris Lewa, the director of the Arakan Project, a non-profit group focusing on the Rohingya crisis. The refugees set sail from southern Bangladesh at the end of March or early April, bound for Malaysia, Lewa said, but were turned back by both Malaysian and Thai authorities because of coronavirus restrictions. She said the refugees may have been held hostage at sea for a period by traffickers demanding money before allowing them to disembark.
Officials said the group was currently being held in a temporary location. “We hope they can be moved to the evacuation center today, but their health, especially related to COVID-19, is our main concern,” they said.