JAKARTA: Indonesia will make preparations to facilitate moving Rohingya migrants to the Strait of Malacca, after they were stranded in North Aceh, said an army spokesperson on Tuesday (May 12).
According to Indonesian National Army (TNI) spokesperson Manahan Simorangkir, most of the 581 migrants do not wish to stay in Indonesia. Instead, they want to go to Malaysia, where they hope to find work.
“We will prepare fuel and send them out of Indonesian waters. We will not force them to go to Malaysia or Australia. That is no longer our business,” said Mr Manahan. “They (came to Aceh waters) because they needed help. They don’t want to go to Indonesia. They want to go to Malaysia.”
The Indonesian government has also provided supplies of medicine, food and fresh water on the refugees’ boats, said TNI.
Since Sunday, hundreds of Rohingya migrants, including 51 children, have illegally entered Indonesian waters in North Aceh. They were stranded after their boats ran out of fuel.
At least 50 people are receiving treatment for acute hunger, while others have been placed at the Lhoksukon stadium in Aceh.
According to data from International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Rohingya refugees were smuggled via two boats, and they had been promised jobs by middlemen.
“They thought they had reached Malaysia, but, actually, it is Indonesia. They were abandoned by the smugglers,” said IOM spokesperson Steve Hamilton.
One of the refugees, Rashid Ahmed, admitted leaving Myanmar about three months ago with his son. “We don’t have food. We can only pray,” he said.
IOM estimated around 25,000 Rohingya people have been smuggled out of Myanmar on boats between January and March this year.