Around 240 Rohingya Muslims, including women and children, find themselves adrift off the coast of Indonesia after facing rejection from local residents in two separate landing attempts.
The latest incident occurred in Aceh Utara district, Aceh province, on Thursday afternoon, where the Rohingya boat attempted to land but left after a few hours, marking the fourth such arrival in Indonesia’s northernmost province since Tuesday. Three other boats were allowed to land in a different district, reports the AP.
Residents of Ulee Madon beach in Muara Batu sub-district expressed their refusal to accept the new group, citing previous discomfort caused by Rohingya refugees in the area.
Saiful Afwadi, a traditional leader at Muara Batu sub-district, remarked on the dilemma, stating, “From a humanitarian perspective, we are concerned, but from another perspective, they are causing commotion. We provided shelter to them, but we also cannot accommodate them.”
Rahmat Karpolo, a village head, explained the reluctance, saying, “So we are worried that the same incident will happen again,” referring to past experiences where Rohingya refugees reportedly ran away from shelters.
Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar to Bangladesh refugee camps in 2017 following an army-led crackdown. Overcrowded conditions and the desire for a better life have compelled many to attempt sea journeys, with Indonesia being a common stopover.
Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement on Thursday, clarified its stance, emphasizing that Indonesia is not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The statement, attributed to Lalu Muhamad Iqbal, the Ministry’s spokesperson, noted, Indonesia does not have the obligation or capacity to accommodate refugees, let alone to provide a permanent solution for the refugees.
Iqbal highlighted that the provision of temporary shelter is solely for humanitarian reasons, but the kindness has been exploited by human traffickers seeking financial gain.
“In fact, many of them were identified as victims of human trafficking,” Iqbal added.