BIREUEN, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian fishermen rescued 76 Rohingya Muslims stranded off the coast of Aceh on Friday, authorities said, in the latest attempt by members of the persecuted ethnic group to flee Myanmar by sea.
Tthe group of eight children, 25 women and 43 men was brought ashore in their wooden boat Friday afternoon. It was unclear how long they had been at sea, said Riza Yulianto, the police chief of Bireuen regency in Aceh on the island of Sumatra.
Aceh’s Disaster Mitigation Agency said the Rohingya told local authorities that they wanted to reach Australia.
The agency said it was coordinating with the local government to provide temporary shelter. It said seven people were given medical treatment.
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Officials were interviewing the refugees, and villagers had donated clothes and food, said Hidayatullah from the local civic group Rapid Response Action.
Hidayatullah, who uses one name, said fisherman went to the aid of the Rohingya after seeing the boat at about 2 p.m. Its sail wasn’t working, he said.
Myanmar’s persecution of its Rohingya Muslim minority has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August. Some have also tried to flee by boat. Myanmar’s military said it was carrying out counterinsurgency operations.
An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional concern.
The International Organization for Migration said the Indonesian government had asked it to send a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.