Indonesian Authorities Initiate Sea Patrols to Prevent Rohingya Arrivals

This comes after more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees arrived in Indonesia’s territory by boat.
Indonesian Authorities Initiate Sea Patrols to Prevent Rohingya Arrivals
A boat carries Rohingya people stranded at sea near Indonesia on Dec. 27, 2021. (Aditya Setiawan/Reuters)
Aldgra Fredly

Indonesian authorities have imposed 24-hour maritime patrols along the shores of its northernmost province of Aceh to prevent Rohingya refugees from reaching the country, according to multiple reports.

The country has increased maritime surveillance near Aceh after more than 1,000 Rohingya refugees arrived by boat the previous week. The United Nations said the refugees entered Aceh in overcrowded boats.

“The police are patrolling 24/7 to prevent Rohingya immigrants from landing in East Aceh,” Indonesian police chief Andy Rahmansyah told reporters on Nov. 25, according to AFP.

Local authorities have also asked fishermen to assist in monitoring the arrival of Rohingya refugees in Aceh. This came after police received reports from fishermen about an incoming Rohingya boat on Nov. 24.

The refugees arriving in Aceh had endured a difficult sea journey. Most of them left refugee camps in Bangladesh, where more than 700,000 had fled following a crackdown by Burma’s army in August 2017.

Security forces in Burma (also known as Myanmar) have been accused of mass rape, killings, and the burning of thousands of Rohingya homes.

While most of the refugees have attempted to reach Malaysia, many have ended up in Indonesia along the way.

“The thwarted landing of hundreds of Rohingya refugees is a big step back for Indonesia, where communities have previously shown generosity and humanity towards those seeking safety after perilous boat journeys,” said Usman Hamid, executive director for Amnesty International Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that it isn’t a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and therefore doesn’t have the obligation or capacity to accommodate refugees.

“Accommodation has been provided solely for humanitarian reasons. Ironically, many countries party to the convention actually closed their doors and even implemented a pushback policy toward the refugees,” ministry spokesperson Lalu Muhamad Iqbal said.

He said that Indonesia’s kindness in providing temporary shelter has been widely exploited by human-smugglers who seek financial gain without caring about the risks faced by refugees, especially vulnerable groups such as women and children.

UN Calls for ‘Emergency Response’

U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews on Nov. 24 called for an “emergency response” to the growing number of Rohingyas arriving in Indonesia from Bangladesh—where food rations have been cut.

“This is an emergency, and an emergency response is required, including a coordinated search and rescue operation to save the lives of those who may be stranded on overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels,” he said.

Mr. Andrews urged the international community to address “the root causes of the crisis” by depriving Burma’s military junta of “the weapons, money, and legitimacy” it uses to perpetuate its oppression of civilians.

“Until such time as the Rohingya are able to return to Myanmar voluntarily, with safety and dignity and rights ensured, Member States must fund adequate humanitarian assistance and consider durable solutions for Rohingya refugees, including resettlement,” he added.

The same military junta ousted an elected civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, sparking widespread anti-coup protests and clashes between troops and insurgents in Burma.

Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the military junta of committing genocide against the Rohingya in a “widespread and systematic” manner, saying there was clear evidence of intent to destroy the minority group in whole or in part.

“For those who did not realize it before the coup, the brutal violence that has followed has made clear that there is no one the Burmese military won’t come for. No one is safe from atrocities under its rule.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.