02/13/2016, 13.51
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UN award proposed for Aceh fishermen who saved sea migrants

The Geutanyoe Foundation has named fishermen from the Indonesian province for the Nansen Refugee Award. The UNCHR awards the prize each year for action on behalf of refugees and displaced people. Last year, the fishermen saved scores of Rohingya and Bangladeshis drifting on boats in the high seas.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Fishermen in Indonesia's Aceh province have been nominated for a United Nations award for rescuing hundreds of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh stranded in Indonesian waters.

The Aceh-based humanitarian group Geutanyoe Foundation had proposed the fishermen as candidates for the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), the group’s international director Lilianne Fan said on Wednesday.

"If they hadn't been rescued by the Aceh fishermen, the lives of the children and the Rohingya people and Bangladeshis may not have been saved," she is quoted as saying.

The Rohingya, a stateless ethnic minority from Myanmar, were allowed to enter Aceh temporarily in May last year during the regional migrant crisis, which is not yet abating.

Last spring, a Thai crackdown on trafficking networks after the discovery of a mass grave on the Thai-Malaysian border made matters worse.

Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia reacted by turning away the boats until the latter two countries reached an agreement to give the migrants refuge for one year.

As Thailand, then Indonesia and Malaysia turned away boats, scores of boats were left drifting on their own in the Andaman Sea.

The UNCHR gives the annual Nansen Refugee Award to an individual, group of people or an organisation to honour extraordinary service to refugees and outstanding work on behalf of the forcibly displaced.

The UN body focuses on giving assistance to refugees as well as providing education for the children of the displaced in various countries.

Lilianne Fan said that the Aceh fishermen exemplify concrete humanitarian action in saving the lives of the refugees without exhibiting racial or ethnic bias.

The number of Rohingya refugees currently living in Aceh province has reportedly fallen to 350 from the initial 1,010 people.

The refugees currently live in shelters located in Kuala Langsa harbour, in the town of Langsa, and camps in Bayeun village in East Aceh and Blang Ado village in North Aceh.

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