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March 2024

Episode: KPN 27-03-2024

Kaladan Radio March 27, 2024 1828 8

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Angry locals force recued Rohingyas to relocate

Dozens of Rohingya refugees who were saved after their boat capsized off Indonesia’s westernmost coast last week have been forced from their temporary shelter due to local protests, a United Nations refugee agency official said on Wednesday.

The mostly Muslim ethnic Rohingya are heavily persecuted in Myanmar, and thousands risk their lives each year on long and expensive sea journeys to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

But the influx of refugees has sparked anger in Indonesia’s western Aceh province, where some locals have pushed boats carrying Rohingya back into the sea or tried to storm their temporary shelters in recent months.

The survivors of last week’s capsizing were taken a 10-minute drive away to the local government chief’s office in West Aceh regency, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protection associate Faisal Rahman told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“They are moved to the backyard of the ‘bupati’ (local regent) office,” he said.

Authorities last Thursday rescued 69 Rohingya refugees found after clinging to the hull of their overturned vessel for more than a day. Six others were rescued by fishermen a day earlier.

At least 11 Rohingya were found dead at sea after rescuers called off the search last Friday, despite some survivors saying more than 150 people had been aboard the boat when it capsized.

The survivors were given shelter in an old Red Cross building in West Aceh, but dozens of locals stormed the facility on Tuesday to demand their eviction, forcing authorities to move the group of 75 refugees.

Indonesia Foreign Ministry spokesman Lalu Muhamad Iqbal told AFP on Wednesday that Jakarta gave the Rohingya temporary shelter for humanitarian reasons, but the UN and nations signed to the UN Refugee Convention were obliged “to give permanent shelter.”

Indonesia is not a signatory to the convention.

From mid-November to late January, 1,752 Rohingya refugees landed on Indonesian shores, said the UNHCR, adding that the number was the biggest since 2015.

Some Aceh residents have protested against those who reached the land.

Last December, hundreds of students forced the relocation of more than a hundred refugees, storming a function hall where they were sheltering and kicking their belongings.

In another incident, a police line stopped locals from storming a Rohingya shelter on Aceh’s Sabang island.

Many Acehnese are sympathetic to the plight of their fellow Muslims. But others say their patience has been tested, accusing Rohingya of antisocial behavior.

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