11/20/2023, 13.50
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Indonesian (and Christian) NGOs campaign for the reception of the Rohingya

by Mathias Hariyadi

Recent landings have raised the alarm over the situation of 'boat-people' fleeing Myanmar. On 17 October, at least 249 refugees were turned back off the coast of Aceh. In just a few days more than 600 have landed on Indonesian territory. An eight-point proposal to deal with the emergency, following the dictates of international law.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The recent arrivals off the Indonesian coast of hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh (and Myanmar), modern "boat people" fleeing poverty and war, has relaunched the issue of the right to hospitality in the country .

At least 12 non-governmental organizations, activist groups and bodies linked to the local Church underline the need - if not the moral and legal obligation - to provide help, drawing up a list of points to follow to best manage the emergency.

In the joint note the movements turn to the government and citizens, so that support does not fail but is, at the same time, organized and not left to chance or the good will of the individual entities in the field.

The issue had already emerged on October 17, when 249 Rohingya were rejected in an attempt to dock on the coast of Aceh and pushed back into the Andaman Sea, before moving away into the ocean waters. In addition to denying disembarkation, the requests for food and water made by the refugees, in desperate need of help, were also ignored.

Last week there was the third landing in a few days, which brought the number of Rohingya in Indonesian territory seeking help and relief to over 600. According to some information, there are over 2 thousand "boat people" who have undertaken the (risky) journey to the Indonesian coast.

The vast majority come from Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, a huge refugee camp where over a million Rohingya live, often in disastrous conditions. Between 14 and 17 November there were at least three landings in Bireuen and North Aceh, which was enough to raise the alarm among citizens and government spheres in Jakarta, especially due to their conditions upon arrival.

Linked to this is the clash between those who would like to promote a refoulement policy and those who, also in the name of the Islamic principle "peumulia jamee" of welcome, ask for help.

Hence the choice of 12 organizations and institutions to publish a joint note, in which they recall the laws and international law according to which an individual, including refugees, should not be expelled from the country in which he seeks protection.

Among the movements signing the appeal are the Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia (Jrs Indonesia), Sahabat Insan, Human Rights Working Group (Hrwg), Banda Aceh Legal Aid Agency and RDI Urban Refugee Research Group (Rdi-Uref).

They recall that rejections conflict with internal rules (Presidential Regulation 125/2016 according to which they are the responsibility of the police once they have landed, and are then assigned to immigration centers) and directives that have also recently emerged in global meetings such as the G-20 , ASEAN and in anticipation of the Global Refugee Forum in December.

In Aceh, they point out, these directives have been ignored on purpose, violating the rights of Rohingya migrants, although Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, but others have been ratified over time including the Law of the Seas (Unclos ).

Hence the eight-point appeal of the 12 signatory organizations, which outline the principles of intervention and the methods to be followed to guarantee, in compliance with the law, full dignity to "boat-people", refugees and asylum seekers: supporting implementation and compliance of human rights regarding refugees, saving the boats and canceling the rejection policy; implement presidential decree 125/2016 on reception (of the Rohingya); prompt intervention of the task force dedicated to the management of foreign refugees; involve members and leaders of local communities in reception; indicate and support places of temporary refuge, in particular in North Aceh and Bireuen; involve international institutions and humanitarian agencies in the work of coordination with the government, for a shared responsibility; role of local community members; identify and protect vulnerable groups on boats, including sick people, children, pregnant women, victims of violence, people with disabilities and others.

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