On December 27, 2023, a large number of Indonesian students stormed a convention center housing hundreds of Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar in the city of Banda Aceh demanding they be deported an international media agency footage showed. A city police spokesperson in Banda Aceh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Details of the Footage
The video footage showed many students wearing green jackets, running into buildings large basement space, where crowds of Rohingya men, women, and children were seated on the floor and crying in fear. The Rohingya were then led out, some carrying their belongings in plastic sacks, and taken to trucks as the protestors looked on.
A total of 200 students protested in front of the provincial parliament in Banda Aceh calling on lawmakers to turn away the Rohingya refugees saying their presence will invite social and economic upheaval to the community. “Get away Rohingyas,” the protestors chanted, Many criticized the government and the UN Refugee Agency for failing to manage the refugee arrivals. Some of them burnt tires on the streets.
“We urged the parliament speaker to immediately take action to remove the Rohingyas from Aceh,” said Teuku Wariza, one of the organizers of the protests. Upon reaching the refugee camp, the protestors threw out the clothes and other belongings of the refugees, forcing the authorities to take them away to another place.
Reaction from the UNRA
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNRA), in a statement, said that it was deeply disturbed to see a mob attack on a site sheltering vulnerable refugee families, the majority of them being children and women, and called for better protection. The mob broke the police cordon forcefully placed 137 Rohingya refugees on the truck and moved them to another location in Banda Aceh. The incident has left refugees shocked and traumatized.
The United Nations Human Rights Agency reminds everyone that desperate refugees, children, and women seeking shelter in Indonesia are victims of persecution and conflict and are survivors of deadly sea journeys.
Status of Rohingyas in Indonesia
Indonesia had once tolerated refugees while Thailand and Malaysia pushed them away. However, the growing hostility of some Indonesians towards Rohingyas has put certain pressure on President Joko Widodo’s government to take action. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has blamed the recent surge in arrivals on human trafficking and pledged to work with international organizations to offer temporary shelter.
Rohingya Refugees have experienced increasing hostility and rejection in Indonesia as locals grow frustrated at the number of boats arriving with the ethnic minority, who face severe persecution in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar. On November 17, 2023, 250 Rohingya Refugees were deported back to Myanmar.
Wariza Anis Munandar, a 23-year-old student in Bada Aceh speaking at an earlier protest rally in the city on December 27, 2023, called for the deportation of the Rohingyas, while another student, 20-year-old Della Masrida said “they came here uninvited and they feel like this is their country.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention On Refugees but has a history of taking refugees when they arrive. For years, Rohingyas have left Myanmar where they were regarded by as foreign interlopers from South Asia denied citizenship, and subjected to verbal and physical abuse.