Aceh fishermen rescue Rohingya refugees though denied entry into land

Aceh fishermen rescue Rohingya refugees though denied entry into land

A boat with Rohingya refugees aboard adrift at Lancok Beach, North Aceh District, Aceh Province, on June 25, 2020. (Antara Aceh/Khalis)

Based on humanitarian grounds, we are providing emergency assistance to them
Jakarta (ANTARA) - Three Acehnese fishermen rescued 94 Rohingya refugees, including 30 children, stuck in the waters of Seunuddon, North Aceh, as their damaged boat had begun sinking on Wednesday (June 24).

The refugees, comprising 49 women, 15 men, and 30 children, received drinking water and food, though the local authorities did not allow them to enter land, pending the government's decision on their fate.

"Based on humanitarian grounds, we are providing emergency assistance to them," Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi remarked while delivering a press statement from the Presidential Palace here on Thursday.

However, the minister desisted from elaborating on the type of assistance offered to Rohingya refugees.

The motorboat had docked at the coast of Lancot, North Aceh, owing to the wind, but the passengers were not permitted to disembark, pending a local government’s policy expected to be issued on the follow-up to the handling of refugees in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ship was later pushed back to sea by joint officers from the Aceh police, military, and emergency offices, despite pleas made by several Aceh residents that the Rohingya refugees be allowed to land on humanitarian grounds.

Marsudi expounded that the problem of refugee movement by sea cannot be separated from the root of the problem in their country of origin, Myanmar.

To this end, the minister called to immediately repatriate Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh to Rakhine State, Myanmar.

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At a virtual meeting of ASEAN ministers on Wednesday, the minister called for the need to prioritize the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Rakhine, Myanmar, and stressed that the process be carried out safely, voluntarily, and with utmost dignity.

Last year, the ASEAN Leaders had concurred on forming an ad-hoc task force to handle the repatriation plan.

In the meantime, Amnesty International Indonesia has urged the government to ensure adequate steps are taken for the rescue, landing, and protection of the refugees.

The refugees’ basic needs, including food, clothing, clean air, and adequate temporary shelter, should also be fulfilled, especially since several of them are children.

"In the wake of this incident, we also urge the government to be prompt in initiating intensive communication with leaders of other countries in the region, including with Australia, so that the Bali Process is activated in a bid to find solutions on ways to save refugees still adrift at sea and to put an end to their sufferings," Amnesty International Indonesia's Executive Director, Usman Hamid, noted in a written statement on Wednesday.

From Malaysia, the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organization (MAPIM) has called on the Indonesian government to help Rohingya refugees stranded on the Seunuddon coast in Aceh.

Saving the refugees, including 49 women and 30 children, is a humanitarian deed, president of MAPIM, Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, noted in a statement issued in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

"We support the calls made by the Indonesian foreign affairs minister and other ASEAN member states to ensure the safety of Rohingya refugees," he noted.

The repatriation of Rohingya refugees must be conducted voluntarily and with dignity, he affirmed.

"We also urge the ASEAN Secretariat General to ensure that basic needs and services are available in Rakhine," he added. (INE)

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