SABANG, Indonesia (AP) — More than 200 people protested Monday against the continued arrival of Rohingya refugees by boat on an island in Indonesia.
Over 1,500 Rohingya, who fled violent attacks in Myanmar and now are leaving camps in neighboring Bangladesh in search of better lives, have arrived in Aceh off the tip of Sumatra since November. They have faced some hostility from fellow Muslims in Aceh.
The protesters, many of them residents and students, called on authorities and the U.N. refugee agency to remove all Rohingya refugees from Sabang island. They also want humanitarian organizations helping the refugees to leave.
The latest arriving boat carried 139 Rohingya, including women and children.
“Our demand is to reject them all. They must leave. Because Sabang people are also having a hard time, they cannot accommodate any more people,” said one protester, Samsul Bahri.
Last week, Indonesia appealed to the international community for help.
Indonesia once tolerated such landings of refugees, while Thailand and Malaysia push them away. But the growing hostility of some Indonesians toward the Rohingya has put pressure on President Joko Widodo’s government to take action.
The president earlier this month said the government suspected a surge in human trafficking for the increase in Rohingya arrivals.
Police in Aceh have detained at least four people suspected of human trafficking in the past two weeks.
On Monday, police in Banda Aceh detained the captain of one boat, himself a refugee, and charged him with smuggling people from Bangladesh.
“We examined 11 witnesses and some admitted to handing over 100,000 taka ($904) money to him, and others handed over the money through their parents and relatives,” police chief Fahmi Irwan Ramli said.
About 740,000 Rohingya were resettled in Bangladesh after fleeing their homes in Myanmar to escape a brutal counterinsurgency campaign carried out in 2017 by security forces. Accusations of mass rape, murder and the burning of entire villages are well documented, and international courts are considering whether Myanmar authorities committed genocide and other grave human rights abuses.
Efforts to repatriate the Rohingya have failed because of doubts their safety can be assured. The Rohingya are largely denied citizenship rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and face widespread social discrimination.
Source: AP News