Migrants believed to be Rohingya rest inside a shelter after being rescued by fishermen at Lhoksukon in Indonesia’s Aceh Province May 11, 2015.Reuters/Roni Bintang
About 1,400 asylum seekers believed to be from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued from boats found drifting near Indonesia and Malaysia, officials from the two southeast Asian nations said on Monday.
In Malaysia, over 1,000 migrants arrived after being abandoned by human traffickers in shallow waters near the southern resort district of Langkawi, the Malay Mail reported. In Indonesia, a fishing boat carrying about 400 migrants was towed to shore by local fishermen near Aceh province off the country’s western coast on Monday, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported, less than a day after nearly 600 others were rescued.
Indonesian authorities reportedly said they believed the boats had been at sea for about a week.
“Our search and rescue team found another boat with more than 400 migrants, Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis, drifting off the waters off east Aceh early this morning,” Budiawan, Aceh’s provincial search and rescue chief, told AFP.
Steve Hamilton of the International Organization for Migration said the boats had been trying to reach Malaysia. “People thought they were in Malaysia, it [turned out] they were in Indonesia. They were left behind by the smugglers,” he told the BBC.
North Aceh’s police chief Achmadi told the BBC that at least 50 of the migrants were taken to hospital for medical attention. “In general, they were suffering from starvation and many were very thin,” he said.
The migrants from Myanmar were believed to be Rohingya Muslims, who are not officially recognized as citizens and have been subjected to violence and discrimination in the majority-Buddhist country.
The rescued migrants were reportedly given food and shelter in clinics and local homes across Aceh province.
Thousands of people from Myanmar have tried to flee and seek refuge since the country rejoined the international community in 2011 after decades of isolation.
The migrants had boarded the boat in Thailand and were en route to Malaysia, but their vehicle ran out of fuel and they were left to drift toward Indonesia, a rescued Rohingya migrant told AFP.
Thailand hosts an estimated 1 million to 2 million migrant workers from Myanmar, and thousands more make the journey every year, often in shoddy boats and under perilous circumstances.
The U.N. estimates that about 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants have attempted the crossing between January and March, twice the number over the same period last year.
On Friday, a mass grave containing the bodies of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh was found in southern Thailand. The U.S. State Department has accused Thai officials of collaborating with smugglers and profiting from the human trafficking trade.