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A group of Rohingya refugees rescued by fishermen in Indonesian waters has disembarked in the province of Aceh. Ninety-nine people were on board the vessel, including 28 children. Human rights groups have praised the local community for their efforts, but say governments in the region must do more to protect Rohingya refugees.

Local people said they had felt compelled to act. A day earlier, fishermen had spotted a rickety boat packed with almost 100 Rohingya refugees, including dozens of children, stranded at sea.

Residents repeatedly urged the authorities to do something, but they were told the group could not be brought to shore because to do so would risk spreading coronavirus. Worried that people’s lives were in immediate danger, they took matters into their own hands and sailed out with ropes to tether the boat to safety.

“We didn’t worry about getting into problems [with the authorities] because we believe that what we did was the right thing,” said Nasruddin Guechik, who is head of the nearby village of Kampung. When people had seen the refugees, it had been impossible not to act, he said. “Just looking at the refugees, we were crying,”

Over recent months, governments across south-east Asia have repeatedly turned away boats carrying Rohingya refugees, blaming concerns over the coronavirus.

A total of 94 refugees, including one pregnant woman, were saved. Amnesty International described the rescuers actions as “a moment of optimism and solidarity”.

Source : The Guardian