HomeLatest NewsNew group of Rohingya lands in Indonesia as deadly sea journeys on rise

New group of Rohingya lands in Indonesia as deadly sea journeys on rise

Rohingya Muslims living in fear as claims of ‘forced conversions’ swirl

JAKARTA: More than 130 Rohingya landed on the shores of Indonesia’s Aceh province on Thursday, the UN refugee agency said, amid increasing numbers of people from the persecuted minority taking risky boat journeys to reach the Muslim-majority Southeast Asian country.

Some 569 Rohingya — out of nearly 4,500 people — died or went missing last year while trying to relocate to another country through deadly sea crossings on often rickety boats, the highest figure in nine years.

More than 1,750 Rohingya arrived in the Indonesian provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra between Nov. 14 and Jan. 22, according to UNHCR Indonesia’s latest report, as they seek protection from continued instability in Myanmar and in the face of more active smuggling networks and declining humanitarian assistance in Bangladeshi refugee camps.

“Early this morning, around 137 Rohingya refugees, including children and women, landed on Kuala Parek beach in East Aceh,” the UNHCR said in a statement on Thursday.

“Right now, our team is on the ground and coordinating with relevant authorities. We hope that the newly arrived refugees are in good condition. Their health is the main priority right now. UNHCR and our partners on the ground are ready to give them the assistance they need.”

The mostly Muslim Rohingya are described as the “world’s most persecuted minority” by the UN and have faced decades of suffering in Myanmar.

In 2017, more than 730,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military, which the UN said amounted to genocide. Since then, the refugees have been living in squalid and overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar, where humanitarian aid has dwindled amid rising insecurity and uncertainty over their future.

Indonesia has a history of taking in refugees on humanitarian grounds when they arrive on the country’s shores, despite not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.

But the latest surge of arrivals prompted a backlash on social media and some pushback from Acehnese people. In one incident, a group of university students in Banda Aceh city stormed a convention center housing hundreds of Rohingya to demand the group’s deportation.

The UNHCR described it as a “mob attack” that resulted from a coordinated online campaign of misinformation and hate speech and said that the Rohingya have since been living in “extremely perilous, overcrowded, and sub-standard conditions in which the protection and assistance response is compromised.” AFP

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