Aceh communities embrace rescued Rohingya refugees

Rohingya refugees who were rescued off the coast of Indonesia’s Aceh last month are supported by local communities.

After facing starvation, disease and death at sea for months, these Rohingya boys and girls are given a chance to enjoy their childhood with the help of a community in Aceh, Indonesia.

The children are among some 100 Rohingya refugees who were rescued at sea by local fishermen after fleeing violence and poverty.

“We thought we would die from hunger and thirst,” a refugee said. “But the Indonesian people helped us, and I am so grateful.”

Some of the refugees died when their boat sank before help could arrive.

“We are better off, with food and everything,” one of the refugees said. “But the pain in my heart is that my family doesn’t know anything, if I am alive or not.”

After they were brought to shore, people living nearby gave them clothes while authorities sent them for COVID-19 testing.

Local residents and NGOs are now providing the refugees with food and support for the trauma they have faced.

NGOs are trying to reconnect unaccompanied children in the group with their families.

“We haven’t needed to spend money from the government, because NGOs and the public have been helping so much,” Ridwan Jali from the Aceh emergency response team said.

Some of the Rohingya refugees say they never intended to reach Indonesia.

“My only hope was to meet my husband in Malaysia,” one of them said. “Now I’m relying on the decision of the Indonesian government. I hope they will do their best for us.”

Despite the warm welcome, these Rohingya do not know yet if they will be allowed to stay or what will happen to them next.

This video was produced and edited by Al Jazeera NewsFeed’s Hassan Ghani.