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More than 500 migrants, thought to be Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshis, were rescued from boats off the coast of Indonesia’s northern Aceh province on Sunday, 10 May and given temporary shelter at a mosque in the town of Seunuddon.
The overcrowded boats, which were carrying nearly 100 women and dozens of children among the refugees, had run out of fuel and were towed to shore by fishermen.
A spokesman for the Aceh Search and Rescue Agency said that according to the information the agency had, the people on board were Muslim Rohingyas from Burma. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Bangladeshis were also among the migrants.
“We already two months in sea,” he said.
Asked how many people were on the boat, Junad explained, “A boat can contain about 200 people, all we go with three boats and in total about more than 500 people on board. We want to enter Malaysia to get money.”
Since 2012, more than 100,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have fled violence and poverty in Burma. Most travel in traffickers’ boats to Thailand, where they are often held by traffickers in squalid jungle camps before a ransom is paid.
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 U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.