Banda Aceh. Nearly 600 migrants thought to be Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were rescued from two wooden boats stranded off the coast of Aceh province, authorities said on Sunday.
The overcrowded boats, which were carrying nearly 100 women and dozens of children among the refugees, were towed to shore by fishermen after running out of fuel.
“According to the information we have so far, the people on board are from Myanmar. They are Muslim, from the Rohingya community,” said Mohammed Arif Mutaqin, spokesman for the Aceh Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas).
The migrants left Thailand about seven days ago and some died during the journey, authorities said.
Of those rescued, around 50 were taken to the hospital.
“In general, they were suffering from starvation and many were very thin,” said North Aceh police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Achmadi.
An estimated 25,000 Rohingyas and Bangladeshis boarded people-smugglers’ boats in the first three months of this year, twice as many in the same period of 2014, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday.
An agency official estimated that around 300 people had died at sea in the first quarter of this year as a result of starvation, dehydration and abuse by boat crews.
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