Indonesia to deport stranded Myanmar Muslims
Indonesia will deport 77 Myanmar Muslims who became stranded on an island in Aceh on the way to seek work in Malaysia last month.india Updated: May 05, 2006 12:17 IST
Indonesia will deport 77 Myanmar Muslims who became stranded on a small island in Aceh province on the way to seek work in Malaysia last month, an immigration official said on Friday.
"When everything is ready, we will return them to their country," Sumarli Said, the head of the immigration department on Sabang island, told the agency.
Aswoto Saranang, commander of Sabang's naval base where the boatpeople are currently sheltering, said several of the boatpeople had contracted malaria but were recovering.
The immigration chief said sending the group back into international waters was not under consideration.
"Their boat is not seaworthy," he said.
He said an official from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jakarta told him earlier Friday that the agency planned to interview the boatpeople to determine their status.
The UNHCR was still looking for interpreters for the purpose, the immigration chief said.
Two UNHCR officers from Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, had earlier tried to interview the boatpeople but encountered language problems.
Officials said last month that the boatpeople did not wish to be repatriated and wanted to continue their journey to seek work overseas.
The men landed on Rondo island off northern Sumatra after their boat ran out of fuel. All are men and ethnic Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar's Arakan state, aged between 20 to 45.
Officials have said they had left Myanmar to seek better livelihoods in Malaysia's Penang and were not fleeing persecution.
In 1992, more than 200,000 Rohingyas, about a third of their population, fled over Myanmar's border into Bangladesh, accusing the Yangon regime of persecution.
About 20,000 remain in two refugee camps while others are living illegally in the surrounding area.