JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities have stopped 44 migrants believed to be from Sri Lanka from disembarking from their boat and said on Friday the vessel had to head back out to sea after being supplied with food and fuel and repaired.
Indonesia has for years been a stepping stone for refugees and migrants from the Middle East and South Asia hoping to reach Australia. Australia has been urging it to act to stop the flow of people, often traveling in unseaworthy boats.
The boat carrying the 44 people, including several women and children, was found stranded off the coast of the northern Indonesian province of Aceh last week.
“We fixed their boat and gave them the food and fuel they asked for. We also did health checks and we see their condition is good,” provincial governor Zaini Abdullah told media.
“They can be on their way. We are waiting for high tide ... Don’t look at it as if we are pushing them out or ejecting them. We have fulfilled the humanitarian obligations.”
It was not clear if the people on board the boat wanted to land in Indonesia or sail on but activists said they should have been given access to the U.N. refugee agency.
Even though Indonesia is seen as a transit country on the way to Australia, many migrants end up staying there for years.
More than 1,000 migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh landed in Aceh last year after spending days on overcrowded boats, adrift in the Andaman Sea.
Reporting by Angie Teo and Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Robert Birsel