Aceh fishermen nominated for UN award for rescuing migrants

Rohingya refugees in Langkat, North Sumatra, Indonesia, in May last year. Image: Irsan Mulyadi/Antara

Aceh fishermen are nominated to receive the 2016 Nansen Refugee Award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) for rescuing hundreds of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh in Indonesian waters.

Geutanyoe Foundation international director Lilianne Fan said the organisation had submitted the fishermen as candidates to receive the award in recognition of their services to save many lives of those who were stranded at sea.

“If they hadn’t been rescued by the Aceh fishermen, the lives of the children and the Rohingnya people and Bangladeshis may not have been saved,” Fan said, according to the news agency Antara.

According to a statement on its website, the UNCHR once a year awards the Nansen Refugee Award to an individual, group of people or an organisation to honor 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.

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

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

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

The Geutanyoe Foundation is an Aceh-based NGO that focuses on humanitarian issues.

The foundation has been working with the fishermen and focuses on helping the refugees improve their living conditions and create social and livelihood programs in their camps in Aceh.

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