24 May 2015

Indonesia begins migrant boat rescues

1:52 pm on 24 May 2015

Indonesia has begun search and rescue missions for thousands of migrants believed to be adrift in its waters.

Fishermen help rescue a boat of Rohingya migrants off the coast of Indonesia's East Aceh on 20 May 2015.

Fishermen help rescue a boat of Rohingya migrants off the coast of Indonesia's East Aceh on 20 May 2015. Photo: AFP

The country had initially been fending off boats but has since agreed to provide them with temporary shelter.

Over 3000 people, mostly Bangladeshi or Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, have arrived in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in the past two weeks.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has called on South-East Asian nations to do more to protect migrants.

"It's important to save human lives. Whatever the reasons may be when they are out on the sea, their life is endangered," Mr Ban said in a speech in Vietnam.

The Indonesian operation covers their territorial waters and beyond, although they have not yet found any migrant boats.

"If they [the rescuers] see Rohingya boats experiencing various troubles beyond our territory, we have to help so that they can enter Indonesian territory, which initially I did not want to do," said General Moeldoko, the head of Indonesia's Armed Forces.

"But with the president's order, it is very clear we have to do it."

Myanmar and Malaysia have launched similar operations. Thailand has said only that it would stop rejecting boats.

Myanmar (also known as Burma) has carried out its first rescue, finding more than 200 people they described as Bengalis crammed into the hull of a fishing boat.

Officials said the men would be deported to Bangladesh, with the country insisting only verified Myanmar citizens will be allowed to stay.

What is causing the crisis?

-BBC

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