BANGKOK — UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, commends the life-saving actions taken by the Indonesian authorities and Acehnese people over the last three days to rescue and safely disembark persons distressed at sea. UNHCR pleads for continued compassion and hospitality to support disembarkation of additional boats that may be approaching, including a third boat currently languishing off the coast of Aceh.
By allowing the safe disembarkation of approximately 341 Rohingya refugees, arriving on two separate boats between 14 and 15 November, Indonesia has demonstrated strong solidarity and humanity.
UNHCR and partners are on the ground at the disembarkation sites, working in close collaboration with authorities to provide protection and assistance to those who have disembarked, including many women and children. UNHCR and partners stand ready to continue to support the local communities and authorities to respond to the needs of any future disembarkations.
The third boat carrying approximately 200 Rohingya refugees in need of food, water, and medical attention – including a significant number of women and children – has not yet been permitted to disembark and remains off the coast of Aceh. UNHCR again calls upon Indonesia to urgently act to enable the disembarkation and provision of life-saving assistance to these individuals.
In addition to the boat currently still in distress, reports indicate that at least one additional boat may be at sea. More are likely to depart Bangladesh and Myanmar in the near future, as Rohingya refugees continue to search for safety and security.
“Rohingya refugees are once again risking their lives in search of solutions,” said Ann Maymann, UNHCR Representative in Indonesia. “Perilous journeys are undertaken by those who see no opportunity and who have lost hope. As global crises multiply and humanitarian resources dwindle, we must act immediately to save lives, but also urgently to expand solutions.”
UNHCR repeats its appeal to all States in the region to enhance regional coordination to save lives at sea, to fully deploy their rescue capacities and promptly facilitate safe disembarkation. The relevant Laws of the Sea (SOLAS, UNCLOS and SAR Conventions) ratified by Indonesia and international customary law must be upheld at all times and are applicable for all States, regardless of whether they have acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
We call on all countries involved to adhere to the commitments made in the Bali Declaration and to step up regional cooperation and coordination for predictable search and rescue and safe disembarkation. The priority must be to save lives and avoid even greater tragedy.
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