Hundreds of migrants land in Indonesia

Fishermen brought hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants to shore in Indonesia's northwestern Aceh province

Hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants landed in Indonesia's northwestern Aceh province early on Wednesday, an Indonesian search and rescue official said.

"In total we found around 500 people out at sea and they are being brought to land in smaller boats," said Khairul Nove of the national search and rescue agency. Nova said the migrants had landed in the town of Kuta Binje in Aceh.

"They were suffering dehydration, they are weak and starving," he said. Indonesia has said it would prevent migrant boats from landing on its shores but would provide humanitarian assistance at sea if needed.

It was unclear if the migrants were on one boat or had come from several, said Herman Sulaiman, from East Aceh district's Search and Rescue Agency.

One of the fishermen who led the rescue was 40-year-old Razali Puteh. He said he spotted a green wooden trawler crammed with people who were screaming, waving their hands and clothes at him to get his attention.

As he neared the trawler, people aboard began jumping into the water, trying to reach his boat. He said he asked them to stay on their boat, which apparently had no motor, and promised to return with help. He then returned with other fishing boats and brought the migrants to shore.

One of the migrants, Ubaydul Haque, 30, said the ship's engine had failed and the captain fled, and that they were at sea for four months before Indonesian fishermen found them and took them to shore.

"We ran out of food, we wanted to enter Malaysia but we were not allowed," he said. Malaysia has said the migrants are unwelcome.

The latest arrivals came hours after Indonesia's Foreign Ninister Retno Marsudi said the country had "given more than it should" to help hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded on boats by human traffickers.

"This irregular migration is not the problem of one or two nations. This is a regional problem, which also happens in other places. This is also a global problem," Marsudi told reporters after a Cabinet meeting at the presidential palace.

Marsudi said Indonesia has sheltered 1,346 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who washed onto Aceh and North Sumatra provinces last week. The first people came on May 10 with 558 people on a boat, and the second with 807 on three boats landed on Friday. Even before the crisis, nearly 12,000 migrants were being sheltered in Indonesia awaiting resettlement, she said, with most of those Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. No more than 500 of those migrants are resettled in third countries each year, she said.

"Indonesia has given more than it should do as a non-member-state of the Refugee Convention of 1951," she said.

The government of Myanmar said on Wednesday it was "ready to provide humanitarian assistance" to refugees, in its most conciliatory comments to date.

A statement from Myanmar's foreign ministry in state media said it "shares concerns" of the international community and is "ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea."

The crisis emerged this month as governments in the region began cracking down on human trafficking. Some captains of trafficking boats abandoned their vessels — and hundreds of migrants — at sea. About 3,000 of the migrants have reached land in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, but all three countries have pushed some ships away. Aid groups estimate that thousands more migrants — who fled persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh — are stranded in the Andaman Sea.

Myanmar's cooperation is seen as vital to solving the crisis, but its government has already cast doubt on whether it will attend a conference to be hosted by Thailand on May 29 that is to include 15 Asian nations affected by the emergency.

Myanmar officials have said they will not attend if the word "Rohingya" is mentioned on the invitation or if Myanmar is going to be blamed as "the source of the problem."

The Rohingya Muslims have faced decades of state-sanctioned discrimination in Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. The U.N. says they are one of the most persecuted groups in the world.

Al Jazeera with wire services

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