LONDON - In early January, a boat with 185 Rohingya refugees washed ashore on the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh province. They had spent weeks at sea in desperate conditions, fleeing cramped and overcrowded camps in Bangladesh in search of a better life, writes in Aljazeera Tun Khin,President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK.
More than half were women and children. Sadly, they are far from alone. Since November last year, at least three more boats have landed in Aceh after similarly perilous journeys, carrying hundreds of refugees, with at least 20 people dying at sea.
According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), thousands of Rohingya, including women and children, resorted to perilous boat journeys in 2022. At the same time, it is deplorable that common people have had to step in to do what governments in the region are supposed to do.
From India to Indonesia, states in South and Southeast Asia have for years turned a blind eye to the plight of Rohingya “boat people”, refusing refugees a chance to land on their shores and even pushing their vessels back to sea. This is illegal — a violation of the non-refoulement principle under international law bans nations from sending people back to where they are at risk of serious human rights violations.
It is also immoral behaviour, and regional states must change course immediately to prevent even more lives from being lost at sea. Rohingya people have taken to boats from Myanmar for years to escape the genocide we are facing in our native Rakhine state.
In recent years, it is increasingly refugees from Bangladesh who have risked their lives on dangerous sea journeys. Close to one million Rohingya refugees live in camps in Bangladesh.