Politics

Third Rohingya refugee dies in Indonesia after months at sea

Jakarta, Sep 11 (efe-epa).- A Rohingya refugee died Friday following the arrival of a ship in Indonesia earlier this week with almost 300 people who had spent more than five months wandering the Bay of Bengal, as countries in the area refused to let them disembark.

The 19-year-old woman passed after a 21-year-old and a 22-year-old man died Wednesday and Thursday respectively, all of them admitted to Lhoksemawe hospital, in Aceh province, according to the Rima Shah Putra, director of local refugee NGO Yayasan Geutanyoe.

The deceased had reached the Aceh coast by boat after spending more than five months at sea with 294 other refugees, who are now in a camp outside Lhoksemawe.

Jalaluddin, who uses only one name, and is a spokesman for the Lhoksemawue hospital where they died, told EFE that the deceased suffered from pneumonia and respiratory difficulties, after adding that there are three more patients admitted with the same symptoms.

For his part, Putra told EFE that COVID-19 tests had been carried out on all refugees with negative results, and added that “they are very weak after having spent so many months at sea.”

The director of the local NGO added that several refugees showed signs of having suffered violence, probably at the hands of the human traffickers who transported them.

On Monday, Chris Lewa, founder of the NGO Arakan Project, which has been studying the migratory flows of the Rohingya for years, told EFE that the 297 refugees who arrived in Indonesia came from a larger ship carrying 800 people.

This ship had departed in late March or early April from the Bangladeshi camps where nearly 1 million Rohingya expelled from Myanmar are crowded in Malaysia, the usual destination for these refugees.

“This mothership was unable to find a way to disembark in Malaysia, as it was stopped several times by Thai and Malaysian security forces. It then divided its passengers to disembark in several smaller vessels,” Lewa said.

According to the researcher, four other ships managed to disembark between June and July in Malaysia and Indonesia and “hopefully, this group of 297 is the last” left at sea.

Lewa also said refugees were adrift for so long “as a result of movement restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and being pushed back to the high seas, but also because they were held hostage by traffickers at sea until everyone paid for their trips.”

The vast majority of Rohingya are stateless people whose citizenship was revoked by the Myanmar government in the early 1990s and have discriminated for decades as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite living in Arakan for generations ( in western Myanmar).

In August 2017, the Burmese army launched a military campaign against the Rohingya population in northern Arakan, for which their government faces a genocide charge before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The brutal military operation prompted the exodus of more than 725,000 refugees to neighboring Bangladesh, where they remain overcrowded, along with other Rohingya who fled in previous waves of violence, in the world’s largest refugee camp complex. EFE-EPA

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