Students in Indonesia protest the growing numbers of Rohingya refugees in Aceh province – Times of India

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BANDA ACEH: Students in Indonesia‘s Aceh province rallied on Wednesday, demanding the government drive away Rohingya refugees who have been arriving by sea in growing numbers. The protest came as police named more suspects in human trafficking of refugees.
Over 1,500 Rohingya – who fled violent attacks in Myanmar to subsequently leave overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh in search of a better life elsewhere – have arrived in Aceh, on the tip of the island of Sumatra, since November. They have faced some hostility from fellow Muslims in Aceh.
About 200 students protested in front of the provincial parliament in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh, calling on lawmakers to turn away the Rohingyas, saying their presence would bring social and economic upheaval to the community.
“Get out Rohingya,” the protesters chanted. Many criticized the government and the U.N. refugee agency for failing to manage the refugee arrivals. Some protesters burned tires on the street.
“We urged the parliament speaker to immediately take a firm action to remove all Rohingya refugees from Aceh,” said Teuku Wariza, one of the protest organizers.
The protesters marched to a local community hall in Banda Aceh, where about 137 Rohingya are taking shelter. The demonstrators threw out clothes and household items belonging to the refugees, forcing authorities to relocate them to another shelter.
Footages obtained by The Associated Press shows a large group of refugees, mostly women and children, crying and screaming as a mob, wearing university green jackets, is seen breaking through a police cordon and forcibly putting the Rohingya on the back of two trucks.
The incident drew an outcry from human rights group and the UNHCR, which said the attack left the refugees shocked and traumatized.
“UNHCR reminds everyone that desperate refugee children, women and men seeking shelter in Indonesia are victims of persecution and conflict, and are survivors of deadly sea journeys,” the agency said in a statement released late Wednesday.
The statement called on local authorities to urgently act to protect the refugees and humanitarian workers.
Indonesia had once tolerated the refugees while Thailand and Malaysia pushed them away. But the growing hostility of some Indonesians toward the Rohingya has put pressure on President Joko Widodo‘s government to take action.
Widodo earlier this month said the government suspected a surge in human trafficking for the increase in Rohingya arrivals.
Also Wednesday, police in Banda Aceh named two more suspected human smugglers from Bangladesh and Myanmar, following the Dec. 10 arrival of another boat with refugees. One of the suspects, the boat’s captain, himself a refugee, was charged with trafficking.
“This is not an easy issue, this is an issue with enormous challenges,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters.
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.


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