Indonesia Will Send Back a Boat Carrying Rohingya Refugees

A boat carrying more than 100 Rohingya refugees arrived 112 kilometres from the coast of Bireuen waters, Aceh. It was first seen on Sunday adrift in the sea, according to a UNHCR press statement.

However, despite promising to help repair the stranded boat and provide humanitarian aid, Indonesia will not allow the Rohingya refugees to seek refuge in its territory. Hence, Indonesia will send the boat back.

“The Rohingya are not Indonesian citizens, we can’t just bring them in even as refugees. This is in line with government policy,” said Dian Suryansyah, a local navy official. Indonesia does not accept refugees as it is not a signatory to the 1951 U.N. Convention on Refugees.

In response, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that the boat had a problem with its engine damage and thus, should be allowed to land in the Aceh water. “UNHCR is concerned about the safety and lives of the refugees on board. In order to prevent the loss of life, UNHCR urges the Indonesian government to immediately allow the ship to dock safely,” the statement said.

A local fishing community leader, Badruddin Yunus, said that the refugees had been at sea for 28 days. Some of them had fallen ill, and one had even died.

Following the military crackdown accompanied by extrajudicial killings and rape in August 2017, more than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar to seek refuge in Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. After spending months at sea, hundreds of Rohingya refugees have arrived in Indonesia over the last few years.

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