More than 350 migrants have come ashore in Indonesia after drifting for several weeks at sea with little food and water. Most of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.
Hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who had been stranded for months at sea landed in the northwestern Indonesian province of Aceh early Wednesday morning, according to search and rescue officials.
"In total we found around 500 people out at sea and they are being brought to land in smaller boats," said Khairul Nova of Indonesia's search and rescue agency. The migrants landed in the town of Kuta Binje in Aceh province.
Over 350 people have landed thus far, and are being registered by immigration authorities.
"They were suffering dehydration, they are weak and starving," Nova said.
More than 2,000 migrants have managed to land in Indonesia and Malaysia after weeks and sometimes months drifting at sea with little food or water.
But thousands more remain at sea, with governments doing little to rescue them despite pleas from the international community. Most of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar or Bangladeshis attempting to escape poverty.
"We ran out of food, we wanted to enter Malaysia but we were not allowed," 30-year-old migrant Ubaydul Haque told the Associated Press. Haque drifted at sea on a boat for four months before Indonesian fishermen took him ashore.
Myanmar under pressure
The international community is urging Myanmar to do more to stop the migrants from leaving in the first place. Its treatment of the Rohingya minority group is viewed as a root cause in driving the migrants to sea.
Myanmar said Wednesday it was "ready to provide humanitarian assistance to anyone who suffered in the sea" and that it "shares the concerns" of the international community.
Its cooperation is viewed as vital in solving the crisis, but it is not known if its government will attend a May 29 conference including 15 Asian nations affected by the emergency.
For its part, Indonesia has said it would stop migrant boats from landing on its shores but would provide humanitarian aid and assistance at sea.
"Indonesia has given more than it should do as a non-member state of the Refugee Convention of 1951," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.
The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia are due to meet Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the migrant crisis.
The crisis emerged this month as governments in the region began cracking down on human trafficking, forcing some captains of smuggling boats to abandon their ships - and migrants - at sea.
bw/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)