Rohingya describe high-seas terror

  • AseanPlus News
  • Monday, 29 Jun 2020

To safety: Acehnese fishermen helping Rohingya people from a boat onto the shorelines of Lancok village in Aceh. — AFP

A group of Rohingya say they were beaten by traffickers and drank their own urine to stay alive on a perilous four-month journey at sea until their dramatic rescue near the Indonesian coast.

The bedraggled survivors – about 100 in all, mostly women and children – described a high-seas horror story that saw them reduced to throwing the dead overboard as their rickety craft drifted at sea.

Two survivors claimed that smugglers paid to transport them had beaten the Rohingya who were later moved to a new boat and abandoned at sea.

They were rescued by fishermen in Indonesia on Wednesday and pulled to shore by locals the next day, thousands of kilometres south of Bangladesh.

“We suffered so much on that boat, ” 50-year-old Rashid Ahmad said at an immigration detention centre in Lhokseumawe city on Sumatra’s northern coast.

“They tortured us and cut us. One of us even died.

“There was food at first but when it was done they (the traffickers) took us onto another boat and then let us float away alone, ” he added.

Another survivor, Habibullah, said: “They beat everyone. My ear was cut and I was beaten on the head.”

Survivor Ziabur Rahman Safirullah, 35, said the group got by on small rations of rice and nuts while relying heavily on rainwater to survive.

“Sometimes we squashed wet clothes and drank the water from them, ” he said, adding that those who died were thrown into the sea.

Korima Bibi said at least two people died during the voyage and that some on board resorted to drinking urine to stay alive, as others got sick from the rough seas.

Among the roughly 100 in the group were 48 women and 35 children.

They set off from the Balukhali refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, but were originally from Myanmar’s conflict-torn Rakhine State, according to survivors and an account given to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A spokesperson for the group told the IOM that one woman had died on the way, leaving behind her two children. — AFP

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