Rohingya refugees stranded on Indonesian beach, relocated after local refusal | Guardian Nigeria News

More than 200 Rohingya refugees arrived on the shores of a remote Indonesian island on Wednesday after weeks adrift in wooden boats as authorities rejected efforts by locals to push Myanmar’s persecuted ethnic minority back into the sea. Crowded.

The recent arrivals were part of more than 1,000 members of a desperate and exhausted group who landed on the coast of western Indonesia’s Aceh province last week.

Every year, thousands of Rohingya, mostly Muslims, risk their lives from refugee camps in Bangladesh to cross the ocean, often in flimsy boats, to reach Malaysia and Indonesia.

The latest group of 219 refugees, including 72 men, 91 women and 56 children, were found in Sabang, Aceh province, an island off the tip of northern Sumatra, at around 11pm local time on Tuesday. arrived at. .

However, local residents refused, threatening to release them back into the sea.

“How can I get anywhere?” asked Abdul Rahman, a 15-year-old Rohingya refugee. “We don’t want to go back.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said local authorities agreed late Wednesday to transport them by ferry to a temporary shelter in one of Aceh province’s largest cities.

“The plan is to move the refugees to a shelter in Loksmawe,” Saban Social Agency director Naufalu, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

He said the relocation was coordinated with UNHCR and the refugees were given food and drink upon arrival.

“The (local) government has decided to take them to a location designated by the central government,” Faisal Rahman, the UN refugee agency’s protection chief, told AFP on Wednesday.

Abdul Rahman said the group spent 15 days at sea after leaving Bangladesh for Aceh.

The engine of their boat, which was seen bobbing offshore, was damaged, making it impossible to go elsewhere, he added.

UNHCR said Aceh locals had tried to push Rohingya boats from Bangladesh back into the sea three times in the past week.

“The current situation on the ground is not good. The rejection virus is spreading to everyone,” Faisal Rahman said.

Many Acehnese carry memories of decades of bloody conflict themselves and have long sympathized with the plight of their fellow Muslims.

But some say their patience is being tested as the Rohingya consume scarce resources and sometimes come into conflict with locals.

On Wednesday, refugees were seen huddled on the beach in Sabang, surrounded by yellow cordons and security guards blocking their escape.

On the beach, beside a crying baby, several children pounded in the sand and built sand castles, seemingly oblivious to the difficult situation unfolding around them.

– “Emergency, humanitarian crisis” –
Faisal Rahman said the United Nations agency appealed to Mayor Saban to find safe shelter for the refugees overnight, but to no avail.

But U.N. officials said they later negotiated a postponement to push the refugees back into the sea as local communities demanded their immediate removal.

More than 1 million members of this ethnic group have fled Myanmar since the 1990s, mostly following a military crackdown in 2017 that forced most of them to settle in camps in Bangladesh. It is.

Indonesia is not party to the U.N. Refugee Convention and says it is not forced to accept refugees from Myanmar, complaining that neighboring countries are closing their doors to them.

But rights groups said Jakarta should do more to provide assistance under other international treaties, such as the international treaty on the safety of life at sea.

“These treaties also oblige Indonesia to rescue people in danger at sea,” Amnesty International Indonesia director general Usman Hamid told AFP.

“The recent wave of new refugees shows that the Rohingya face an emergency and humanitarian crisis.”

On Tuesday, 256 other Rohingya arrivals were given a reprieve as Indonesia granted them three-month temporary protection after locals threatened to release them back into the sea.

The refugees were transferred on Tuesday night to the same Loksmawe facility where the Saban group was scheduled to move.

Anne Mayman, Indonesia’s representative to the UN refugee agency, told AFP that the decision was “better than letting refugees remain on the beach without safety.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *