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Organizations rally to help Rohingya in Indonesia

By Ainur Rohmah
May 31, 2015

AusRelief hands over donations to Rohingya housed in north Sumatran province of Aceh

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Since Indonesia agreed to house Muslim Rohingya refugees stranded off its shores -- albeit temporarily -- locals, countries and donor organizations have been offering financial help.

The Muslim community in the north Sumatran province where most of the Rohingya are based in temporary shelters has mobilized donations of food, water and moral support -- all desperately needed after the ordeal the boat people have been through at sea -- but it has still not been enough.

This week, Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah asked the federal government to immediately distribute funding as the province lacked a special budget to tackle the migrants’ needs.

"I do not remember how much, but we have spent a lot," Metro TV quoted Abdullah as saying during a visit to the presidential palace in Jakarta.

On Saturday, non-profit humanitarian aid organization AusRelief handed over donations to some of the 1,039 Rohingya housed in Aceh.

"We sought and were granted government and military police approval -- to enter and distribute aid to the Langsa Rohingya refugee camp," the organization said on its Facebook page.

"We organized and delivered aid parcels to every person in the camp. Best of all, we came away with an agreement with the North Aceh Government to assist and support the Rohingya refugees for two years."

On May 21, Malaysia and Indonesia's foreign ministers announced after talks that they would shelter thousands of the migrants currently stranded on boats on the Andaman Sea -- but only if the international community agrees to then resettle them after one year.

Since the talks, Turkey has announced that it will donate $1 million to support aid activities, and the United States, the Philippines and the tiny African nation of Gambia have offered to resettle some of the Rohingya.

On Thursday, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said that it could also take in some of the migrants under its resettlement program, but Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said "nope", insisting that people seeking a new life need to “come through the front door, not through the back".

AusRelief Director Fuad Bahrum called on Abbott to accept asylum seekers Saturday, underling that Australians themselves are mostly migrants.

"Only the Government has no feelings to help them [Rohingya]," he said, claiming that 95 percent of Australians had shown their support.

"Therefore Australia citizens have voluntarily set aside their fortunes to help their brothers and sisters who are in need of help."

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Anadolu Agency that Qatari government had committed to help with financial support during a visit by Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi to Doha on Thursday.

"The Emir of Qatar has provided aid commitments amounting to $50 million for the construction of shelters in Indonesia," he said

He added that Marsudi was also encouraging members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to resolve the "irregular migrant" problem, especially as it relates to Muslim Rohingya.

Earlier on Saturday, the United States embassy in Jakarta conveyed its readiness to give assistance financially to the countries that intercept Rohingya, including Indonesia through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and International Organization for Migration.

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