Fishermen in Indonesia’s Aceh province, where more than 700 migrants were rescued after their boat sank last week, said military officials told them not to help migrants from boats off the coast, unless their boats are sinking or they are in the water, BBC reported Monday. Southeast Asia is reportedly facing a growing refugee crisis as nearly 25,000 people attempted to cross the Bay of Bengal to reach Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia between January and March this year.
Earlier, some fishermen had told the BBC that they had been asked not to help the migrants even if they were drowning.
Military spokesman Fuad Basya reportedly said that fishermen could help the migrants by providing them with food, fuel and water to the boats, or help with repairs, but if they bring them to shore then it would mean an illegal entry into Indonesia. At least 1,500 migrants are reportedly in camps in the Aceh province. Last week, fishermen rescued 900 people in three boats while villagers have donated clothing and meals to those stranded at sea in sinking boats.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Langsa, a city in Aceh province, located northwest of capital Jakarta, reportedly said that the city did not have the budget to provide aid at a large scale, and that it has not received help from Jakarta.
"In short, yes, we need some help, immediately, from our national government or any other institution, including NGOs, to take care of the Rohingyas who are stranded in our place," Usman Abdullah said, according to BBC.
All countries in the region have reportedly closed their borders to the migrants. On Friday, the Indonesian navy prevented the entry of another migrant boat with hundreds aboard.