About 400 Rohingya land in Indonesia, adds to surge of recent arrivals

Rohingya woman reacts as she rests on a beach following her arrival in Blang Raya, Pidie, Aceh province, Indonesia on December 10, 2023. (Photo/Reuters)

Dilapidated boats carrying an estimated 400 ethnic Rohingya arrived in Indonesia's Aceh province, chief of a provincial fishing community has confirmed, adding to a recent surge of Myanmar's Muslim minority arriving in the country.

Prior to Sunday's arrivals, the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) said that 1,200 Rohingya people, a persecuted minority from Myanmar, had landed ashore in Indonesia since November.

Miftah Cut Ade, chief of the fishing community in Aceh, said that two boats landed in the province early on Sunday morning, one each in the districts of Pidie and Aceh Besar.

Each boat was carrying an estimated 200 Rohingya, he said.

Andi Susanto, a local military official, said about 180 Rohingya had landed in Pidie at 4 am (2100 GMT), and that officers were coordinating in the field to collect data.

Susanto confirmed the military was aware of a second boat but did not have information of where it had landed or how many were on board.

More stranded

Nearly 200 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, were stranded on a beach in western Indonesia Sunday after local authorities said they would not accept the new arrivals, AFP news agency witnessed.

The refugees arrived by boat at 3:00 am local time (2000 GMT Saturday), the latest in what has been the largest influx of the persecuted Myanmar minority since 2015.

"They will be placed at the landing location. This time the government will not bear any expenses," said Muslim, the head of the Pidie Social Agency in Aceh province, where the boat landed.

Like many Indonesians, Muslim goes by one name.

"Regarding shelter in Pidie, there is no space available anymore," Muslim said.

Human trafficking

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in a statement on Friday that he suspects human trafficking is behind the recent escalation in boat arrivals and has promised to work with international organisations to handle the issue.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees but has a history of taking in refugees when they arrive on the country's shores.

But the high volume of recent arrivals has prompted a backlash on social media and some pushback from people in Aceh, the westernmost region most boats land.

For years, Rohingya have left Myanmar where they are generally regarded as foreign interlopers from South Asia, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.

When seas are calmer between November and April every year, members of the persecuted minority leave on wooden boats for neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh, Malaysia and Indonesia.


Source: TRT