Two women and a boy among dead Rohingya refugees as Indonesia ends rescue for capsized boat

Members of the National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) carry a bodybag during their search operation for missing Rohingya refugees after 69 refugees were rescued from their overturned boat two days ago in the sea near Calang, West Aceh, on March 23, 2024. Survivors told local authorities that as many as 151 refugees were onboard the boat. - AFP

CALANG, Indonesia (AP): The bodies of three Rohingya refugees were found in the sea as the Indonesian authorities ended a search for survivors from a boat that capsized near Aceh province, the provincial search and rescue agency said Sunday.

Fishers and a search and rescue team rescued 75 people from the boat on Thursday - 44 men, 22 women and nine children - after they huddled on its overturned hull throughout the night.

A few were taken to a local hospital for treatment, but most were sent to a temporary shelter in the Aceh Barat district. Several told UNHCR workers they had lost family members on the journey.

Fishers first spotted the three bodies and reported them to local authorities on Saturday.

"After we searched the area, the team found three bodies, two adult women and one boy. They are allegedly Rohingya refugees who were the passengers of the capsized and sunken boat,” Al Hussain, chief of Banda Aceh Search and Rescue Agency in a statement on Sunday.

The bodies were immediately taken to the hospital in Calang city in Aceh Jaya district, before local authorities buried them.

Faisal Rahman, a UNHCR staff member in Aceh, said that some of the survivors also helped to identify the bodies.

"We have verified as we take one of the refugees to identify and verify that they were together on the boat,” Faisal Rahman, a UNHCR staff member in Aceh, said Saturday evening.

Local authorities in Aceh have received several reports about dead bodies floating in nearby waters since Saturday.

U.N. agencies in a statement on Friday said that about 70 Rohingya refugees are feared missing or dead from a boat that made a grueling sea voyage from Bangladesh and sank off Indonesia’s coast this week.

About 1 million of the predominately Muslim Rohingya live in Bangladesh as refugees from Myanmar. They include about 740,000 who fled in 2017 to escape a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar's security forces, who were accused of committing mass rapes and killings and burning thousands of homes. The Rohingya minority in Myanmar faces widespread discrimination and most are denied citizenship.

Indonesia, like Thailand and Malaysia, is not a signatory to the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, and so is not obligated to accept them. However, the country generally provides temporary shelter to refugees in distress. - AP

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