Rohingya Refugee News
Rohingya Refugee News Podcast
003 - Trafficking of Rohingya Refugees by Boat to Indonesia

003 - Trafficking of Rohingya Refugees by Boat to Indonesia

Podcast with Saiful Arakani.
Saiful Arakani, Rohingya journalist, Teknaf, Bangladesh

In early 2023, Saiful Arakani and I co-authored an article for the Dhaka Tribune titled “Inside story of death on the high seas,” which detailed a catastrophic event resulting in the loss of 180 lives. This incident contributed to the disturbing statistic of nearly 400 Rohingya refugees perishing at sea in 2022, a figure that may well be an underestimate. Various boats embarked on perilous journeys from Bangladesh and Myanmar to Malaysia, encountering diverse outcomes. Some vessels, devoid of essential supplies, witnessed fatalities, while others were either rescued or handed over to authorities, including the Myanmar navy. Notably, one such vessel, missing for an extended period, eventually reached Aceh, Indonesia, with its occupants in critical condition.

Our latest report, published today by DVB English, provides an update on the ongoing crisis. It focuses on the departure of eight boats carrying approximately 1600 individuals from the shores of Bangladesh towards Indonesia between the end of October and first week of December. The full article, offering a comprehensive overview of the situation, is available for readers via the link provided below.

Read Here

In this episode of our podcast, Saiful provides the latest update on the situation of Rohingya refugees currently at sea. He explains the reasons prompting these refugees to leave their camps and shares a detailed list of names and addresses of traffickers. Saiful is of the opinion that such information should be widely accessible, especially by the authorities, to facilitate effective action against these traffickers.

A significant point of discussion was raised during my final question to Saiful, inspired by a previous podcast with Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch. I asked, “Last week, Meenakshi Ganguly stated that “Bangladesh should acknowledge the presence of traffickers and its responsibility to protect refugees from them.” In your view, are the authorities doing enough to address the issue of trafficking?”

Saiful’s response, though unsurprising, highlighted a grim reality. He pointed out the challenges in prosecuting traffickers, noting that there are seldom witnesses willing to testify against them. Additionally, he mentioned the corrupt practices where traffickers often bribe the Armed Police Battalion (APBn) to evade justice.

As an aside, our January 2023 report garnered attention from the Associated Press, prompting them to dispatch a correspondent. This journalist offered her perspective on the story, yet intriguingly, there was no acknowledgment of our initial report! Additionally, it's noteworthy that they engaged Saiful as their fixer and primary source for the story, and of course that fact remained uncredited in their coverage…

Here is information we have managed to put together on the 11 boats

Between April and November 2023, a total of 11 boats embarked on journeys from Cox's Bazar to Indonesia.

Boat No. 01:

Launched from Saint Martin’s Island on 3 November 2023, Boat No. 01 arrived in Aceh, Indonesia, with 194 asylum seekers on 14 November 2023.

Boat No. 02:

Setting off from Saint Martin’s Island on 3 November 2023, Boat No. 02 landed in Aceh, Indonesia, carrying 147 asylum seekers on 15 November 2023.

Boat No. 03:

Boat No. 03, with 256 asylum seekers, started its journey from Saint Martin’s Island on 3 November 2023. It landed in Aceh, Bireuen, Indonesia on 16 November 2023 but was pushed back into the sea by locals. The same boat made landfall again in Aceh, Bireuen on 19 November 2023.

Boat No. 04:

On 19 November 2023, Boat No. 04 reached Aceh, Pedir, Indonesia, carrying 250 asylum seekers. It began its voyage from Saint Martin’s Island on 3 November 2023.

Boat No. 05:

Boat No. 05, carrying 286 asylum seekers, set out on 19 November 2023. Thirty of these individuals were separated by smugglers and attempted to travel from Aceh, Tamaing to Malaysia. However, the Indonesian government intercepted and arrested them. Boat No. 05, with the remaining 221 asylum seekers, landed in Aceh, Saban, Indonesia on 21 November 2023 after departing from Saint Martin’s Island on 7 November 2023.

Boat Nos. 06 and 07:

These two boats, carrying a total of 350 asylum seekers, left Teknaf, Saint Martin Island for Indonesia on 21 November 2023. As of the last update, Boat No. 06 was adrift between the Andaman and Indonesian Sea, while Boat No. 07 had been missing since 27 November 2023.

Boat No. 08:

Boat No. 08, with 139 asylum seekers on board, started from Saint Martin’s Island and landed in Aceh, Sabang, Indonesia on 2 December 2023.

Boat No. 09:

On 10 December 2023, Boat No. 09 arrived in Aceh, Indonesia, carrying approximately 200 asylum seekers. This boat also began its journey from Saint Martin’s Island. 61 refugees were taken away by the traffickers after landing.

Boat No. 10:

Departing from Saint Martin's Island on 30 April 2023, Boat No. 10, with 170 asylum seekers on board, embarked on its journey to Indonesia. It successfully reached its destination in Aceh, Banda, Indonesia on 25 May 2023.

Boat No. 11:

On 7 October 2023, Boat No. 11 set sail from Saint Martin's Island, carrying over 153 asylum seekers towards Indonesia. The boat arrived in Aceh, Bireuen, Indonesia on 16 October 2023. Post-arrival, 14 of these asylum seekers were separated by smugglers and taken to Malaysia.


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Shafiur Rahman