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Rohingya rescued off Aceh relocated after local anger

Agence France-Presse - March 27, 2024

Jakarta – Dozens of Rohingya refugees 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 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 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, UNHCR protection associate Faisal Rahman told AFP.

"They are moved to the backyard of the [West Aceh] 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 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 regency, but dozens of locals stormed the facility on Tuesday to demand their eviction, forcing authorities to move the group of 75 refugees.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lalu Muhamad Iqbal told AFP 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, according to the UNHCR, which said it was the biggest influx since 2015.

Some Aceh locals have protested against those who reached land.

In December, hundreds of students forced the relocation of more than a hundred Rohingya 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 anti-social behavior.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/indonesia/2024/03/27/rohingya-rescued-off-aceh-relocated-after-local-anger.htm