(Jakarta, 9 September 2020)Indonesia needs to upgrade a regulation that leaves refugee management in the hands of under-resourced local governments and enact a law that will guarantee the rights of refugees such as the nearly 300 Rohingya who landed in Lhokseumawe, Aceh on 7 September 2020.
“Rohingya Refugees in Aceh: An Update,” the latest report from Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), examines the chronology of Rohingya refugees’ arrival in Aceh and various issues of refugee management, including attempted escapes, financial scams, and tensions between unpaid government-affiliated volunteers and salaried humanitarian workers.
The latest arrivals present an unprecedented challenge for the Lhokseumawe municipal government which under a 2016 regulation is responsible for managing the refugee situation without much central government input. It is the second big wave to land in Aceh, after 99 Rohingya in a sinking ship were rescued by Acehnese fishermen in June. All were part of a group of some 800 Rohingya around March 2020 who paid people smugglers to take them in several boats from refugee camps in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh bound for Malaysia. Malaysia has a huge diaspora of some 130,000 Rohingya refugees, and many in the two groups were women and children trying to reunite with their husbands.
"The Acehnese have been wonderfully supportive of the refugees, but this is a problem that can't be solved by a sympathetic local community," says Deka Anwar, the report's primary researcher. "We need a collective regional response, with less focus on repatriation when repatriation is not a viable alternative, more willingness to work out regional resettlement options and more prosecutions of anyone found to be profiting from smuggling networks."