Aceh, Indonesia (BBN)-Officials in Indonesia’s Aceh province have said they are struggling to cope with an influx of migrants fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh.
About 1,500 people rescued from sinking boats are currently in camps in Aceh, but officials say aid supplies are low, reports BBC.
Thousands more people fleeing persecution and poverty are believed to still be at sea, with conditions on board growing increasingly desperate.
Despite this, no country has said it will take the migrants in.
Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have all been turning boats away, after giving them water and food. Only those who make it to shore or who are rescued from sinking boats are given shelter.
The migrants are mostly Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, who have paid people smugglers to get to them to Malaysia where they hope to find work.
But Malaysia says it has taken in tens of thousands of Rohingya over the past few years and cannot cope with more.
Prime Minister Najib said on Sunday that Malaysia was “very sympathetic towards those who were floating in the open seas” but that it “must not be burdened with this problem as there are thousands more waiting to flee from their regions”.
Officials from the three countries are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, and have stressed that Myanmar must play a role in stopping the migrants fleeing in the first place.
Myanmar, however, is refusing to accept blame for the crisis, and has said it may not attend the conference.
Rohingya Muslims mainly live in Myanmar – largely in Rakhine state – where they are not considered citizens and have faced decades of persecution.
Rights groups say migrants feel they have “no choice” but to leave, paying people smugglers to help them.
The UN estimates more than 120,000 Rohingyas have fled in the past three years.
Traffickers usually take the migrants by sea to Thailand then overland to Malaysia, often holding them hostage until their relatives pay ransoms.
But Thailand recently began cracking down on the migrant routes, meaning traffickers are using sea routes instead, often abandoning their passengers en route.
The Thai military has dropped food and water supplies to some of the drifting ships
Aid groups say there are still thousands of migrants stranded on boats out at sea with nowhere to land, and that the situation is becoming increasingly desperate.
One group rescued last week by fishermen off Aceh told the BBC that about 100 people had died among them after a fight broke out on board over the last remaining food.
Three men separately said people were stabbed, hanged or thrown overboard.
The mayor of Langsa, where the migrants are now being held, said officials were using funds intended for coping with natural disasters to look after them.
“We are trying to accommodate them as best as we can,” Jakarta Post quoted him as saying. “Aceh has received help from foreigners and we will extend the same gesture,” he said, a reference to aid received after the 2004 tsunami.
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The BBC’s Jonathan Head: “It is quite possible we will never hear from it again”
Meanwhile, at least five boats, together carrying up to 1,000 people, are also reported to have been moored off the coast of Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The UN, which considers the Rohingya one of the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world, has urged all parties to uphold their obligation to help anyone in distress at sea.