Moving refugees from a mothership onto smaller craft for transfer to shore is a common tactic for traffickers.
But it is a perilous operation and an estimated 200 Rohingya have died at sea this year, said Ann Maymann, the Indonesia representative for UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.
“It’s a horrific journey, it’s very unpredictable”, Maymann told AFP.
“Those who disembarked are probably those whose families have paid.”
The latest survivor accounts — including claims there could have been as many as 100 dead — could not be independently verified by AFP but they match reports given to international organizations, including the UNHCR.
Two of this week’s arrivals — a young woman and a man — have died of unspecified illnesses, although everyone was declared coronavirus-free after testing by local authorities.