Rohingya say would rather die in Indonesia than go home
By Ainur Romah and Kaamil Ahmed
May 18, 2015
While Indonesia prepares to repatriate Bangladeshi contingent from boats, Rohingya say they would rather die than go home.
JAKARTA/COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh -- Indonesia said Sunday it is preparing to repatriate many of the Bangladeshi boat people who arrived on its shores this week, but for the Muslim Rohingya on board the situation is more critical.
"I asked them whether they wanted to go back to their home country, and all of them refused," Hilmi Bakar told Anadolu Agency.
The volunteer at humanitarian organization Hilal Merah Indonesia said that Rohingya had said they preferred to die in Indonesia rather than return to a place where they were discriminated against and tortured.
"Some of them cried and asked to stay in Indonesia. Returning to their own country makes them feel so insecure," he said.
The 827 Rohingya are from a contingent of 1486 migrants who arrived in Aceh province on the northern end of Sumatra on boats after Thailand began to clamp down on smuggling camps in its south May 1 - the usual trafficking route to Malaysia.
Thousands of migrants have instead been stuck at sea, in many cases traffickers cutting their losses and dumping them on Malaysian and Indonesian shores.
Tin Soe, the editor of Kaladan Press Network - a Rohingya news group based in Bangladesh, where almost all of the migrants start their journey from - told Anadolu Agency that back in Myanmar they have no right to a livelihood, healthcare, or education.
"They have lost every right from the Burmese [Myanmar government]. They cannot get jobs in government, they cannot get an education, they cannot move, they cannot do anything," he said.
"So they go to Bangladesh or Malaysia [to survive].”
He underlined that the Rohingya's treatment by the Myanmar government is the reason they are leaving.
"People are not going for economic reasons, they are going because of persecution," he stated.
Albert Djalius, the head of monitoring and enforcement at Lhokseumawe immigration office, told Anadolu Agency by phone Sunday that Bangladeshis have been separated from Rohingya at the three temporary shelters they've been staying, and transferred to Aceh's immigration office.
"The new shelter facilitates administrative proceedings regarding repatriation," Djalius said.
He added that a team from the United Nations' refugee agency, the UNHCR, has been helping identify who is a genuine refugee and who is a job seeker.
“The Bangladeshis want to look for jobs in Malaysia," he underlined, adding that the Bangladesh ambassador to Indonesia, MD Nazmul Quaunine, agreed to the repatriations when he visited the residents at the shelter Saturday.
Djalius said that the condition of the migrants - many of whom arrived from the cramped, overcrowded boats suffering from dehydration, wounds, trauma, and broken bones - has improved, with many of the children socializing with local children.
This has been done with great assistance from the government, the Indonesian Red Cross, the army, and Aceh society, he said.
In the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami, Aceh - in which around 163,000 people died or went missing - received almost $5 billion in international aid.
Aceh resident Hendi Permana told the Anadolu Agency by phone on Saturday that those living near the Pangkalan Susu Shelter had been assisting Rohingya with food, clothing, and blankets.
"As Muslims we have to help each other," he said.
Meanwhile, former Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono claimed to be touched Sunday by the loacls attention to the boat people.
"With great emotion, I witnessed spontaneous humanitarian assistance given by Acehnese to Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees," he wrote on his Twitter account.