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March 2024

Episode: KPN 31-03-2024

Kaladan Radio March 31, 2024 1820 6

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Emergency Update – Rohingya Boat Arrivals as of 27 March 2024 -UNHCR Indonesia

Rohingya refugees have undertaken perilous sea journeys from Myanmar and Bangladesh seeking protection, family reunification, and access to livelihoods and education for years. In the last weeks of 2023 and early 2024, however, the pace of boat arrivals and the number of individuals disembarking in Indonesia rapidly increased. From midNovember 2023 to date, 13 boats carrying 1,964 Rohingya refugees (73% of whom are women and children) have landed in Aceh and North Sumatra, Indonesia.

According to information provided to UNHCR by the new arrivals, the recent increase in the number of individuals undertaking the sea journey has been driven by a number of factors. These include the continued instability in Myanmar, lack of progress in addressing the root causes of Rohingya displacement and enabling conditions conducive for return, growing insecurity and declining humanitarian assistance in the camps in Bangladesh, more active smuggling networks, and a decrease in the cost of sea journeys.

These journeys, often undertaken on unseaworthy vessels, are extremely dangerous. In March 2024, a boat carrying approximately 142 Rohingya capsized off the coast of West Aceh, killing 67 passengers, including at least 27 children. Nearly 1,000 Rohingya refugees traveling by boat perished or went missing at sea in 2022 and 2023, including a boat bound for Indonesia carrying approximately 200 refugees that is believed to have sunk in November 2023. Recently disembarked refugees report experiencing protection and security challenges at sea, including gender-based violence, physical abuse, malnutrition, exploitation, and extortion. Rohingya refugees confirm that they are aware of the risks but still board boats, highlighting the pervasive fear and sense of hopelessness that precipitate their decision to embark on these journeys.

In previous years, as per the 2016 Presidential Regulation 125 on the Handling of Refugees, Rohingya boats in distress were rescued and allowed to disembark in Indonesia by the navy, local authorities, and Acehnese coastal communities. Following disembarkation, authorities designated host sites where UNHCR, IOM, and other partners provided protection and basic assistance.

While many Indonesians remain supportive of and sympathetic to the challenges facing Rohingya refugees, the most recent boat arrivals met unprecedented resistance in Indonesia. Some Rohingya were prevented from disembarking, others disembarked only to be forced by local communities back on the boats and returned to sea, and many of those who disembarked have yet to be allocated adequate shelter by authorities. As a result, hundreds of refugees who have disembarked in recent weeks are currently living in extremely perilous, overcrowded, and sub-standard conditions in which the protection and assistance response is compromised.

Rohingya refugees have typically undertaken journeys from Bangladesh and Myanmar between November and March when sea conditions are most favorable. Support is needed to bolster the response in the likely event that more boats carrying Rohingya refugees arrive in Indonesia, particularly in the first quarter of 2024. In view of this, UNHCR and IOM launched an emergency appeal in December 2023 requesting USD 5.4M (USD 2.5M for UNHCR) to urgently respond to refugee boat arrivals in Indonesia through June 2024.
However, no funding has been received by UNHCR to date and the Rohingya boat arrival response remains seriously underfunded.

1,964 Individuals arrived in Indonesia on 13 boats since 14 November 2023

486 Estimated individuals who arrived from 14 Nov 2023 who have since spontaneously departed hosting sites

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