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Indonesian volunteers finish housing for Rohingya

Integrated Community Shelter built in Aceh with $420,000 in funding from various parties inside and outside of country

By Ainur Rohmah 
August 2, 2015

JAKARTA -- The government and volunteers from the Aceh community have finished a housing complex for Rohingya who arrived on Indonesian shores during the recent Southeast Asian crisis, with the intention of rehousing many of the regions more than 1000 refugees in the next 10 days. 

The Integrated Community Shelter has been built in Blang Adoe Village in North Aceh's Kuta Makmur subdistrict by Jakarta-based organization Aksi Cepat Tanggap (Fast Action Response) with Rp 6 billion ($420,000) in funding from various parties, both inside and outside of the country. 

Volunteer Zainal Bakri told Anadolu Agency on Saturday that the need was urgent, as the around 332 refugees to be housed in the new shelter had been placed in temporary accommodation in a village training center, in unhealthy and uncomfortable conditions. 

"The North Aceh government is targeting their removal before August 10," Bakri said. 

The complex stands on an area of 5 hectares, has 120 rooms and is divided into 15 blocks. 

It is equipped with 46 bathrooms, two teaching rooms, a health clinic, a children's playground, a park and a mosque. 

Bakri said each Rohingya family would receive their own room, while single refugees would be placed into two barracks - one for men and one for women. 

This week, North Aceh Regent Muhammad Thaib described the green, white and orange rooms, and the connecting corridors dotted with plants, as heavenly. 

"It's like being in heaven, yet this is real. Very beautiful," he said on visiting the shelters. 

Organization Executive Director Sri Eddy Kuncuro said that community development programs will also be run inside the complex, not just for Rohingya, but also for Acehnese. 

"It's also an opportunity for us to help the Acehnese people who live around the shelter," he told Anadolu Agency. 

He said that data has been collected on the resources in each nearby villages, so as to decide the best programs to be taught in the shelter. 

Training so far would including agriculture, keeping livestock and fishing, he added. 

The foundation's Documentation and Advocacy Program Officer, Zulfadli Kawom, said that the intention was to help the refugees become self-sufficient. 

"Now that the stage of emergency is over, they should be given training in order to be more independent," he told Anadolu Agency. 

Kawom sounded a word of warning about the new center, however, saying that communities around the shelter also needed to be empowered so as to avoid jealousy. 

Rohingya have been fleeing persecution in Buddhist majority Myanmar in the tens of thousands since sectarian violence erupted in 2012. 

In May, a crackdown on people smuggling in Thailand - to which many of the Rohingya had traveled by boat in an effort to get to Malaysia and beyond - scared traffickers into abandoning up to 4,500 migrants on boats in the Andaman Sea. 

Around 1000 of the Rohingya ended up in Aceh. 

Rohingya refugee Mohammed Hussein was quoted by MetroTV as saying that he greatly appreciates everything the government and volunteers had done, and that they couldn't wait to stay in the new complex. 

Many of the Rohingya have been staying in sports centers, warehouses, and fishing complexes since they first arrived. 

"We ask to be immediately be moved there," he said. 

Indonesia’s government - along with Malaysia - has offered to shelter the thousands of boat people, ascertain which are genuine refugees and which are migrants, and house them for one year. 

After that, it has asked the international community to take the refugees in.

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