Indonesian police apprehend nine people in Aceh including refugees trying to escape shelter


Police officers escorting three Indonesian human trafficking suspects as they are suspected of helping Rohingya refugees to leave their camp, at the police headquarters in Lhokseumawe. Three locals were arrested for human trafficking after they were suspected of helping 30 Rohingya refugees leave their camp in Lhokseumawe city, Aceh, said local police chief Henki Ismanto. The police said the suspects received 300,000 Indonesian rupiahs (US$19.32) from each refugee to take them to another location on Sumatra Island. - AFP

JAKARTA (Bernama): Indonesian police have arrested nine individuals in Aceh, including three local citizens acting as coordinators and six Rohingya refugees attempting to leave the temporary shelter in Blang Mangat, Aceh.

Assistant Commissioner Henki Ismanto, the district police chief of Lhokseumawe, stated that all suspects were apprehended on Friday in Uteunkot village, eight kilometres from the shelter.

"The six Rohingya refugees escaped the camp by jumping over the fence behind the old immigration office and crawling through the rice fields.

"They were later picked up and transited in Uteunkot Village before heading to North Sumatra on a public bus,” he noted.

According to Henki, the three local citizens admitted to being called by a fugitive, with the initials KH, to pick up the refugees.

Authorities will charge them under the immigration law, facing a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to 600 million rupiah.

During the arrest, the police seized items, including a car, three phones, two identity cards, and 1.8 million rupiah in cash for transportation costs.

At least 30 Rohingya refugees have fled the camp, and the police are actively pursuing them, Henki added.

Meanwhile, President Joko Widodo expressed grave concerns about human trafficking crimes associated with the increasing number of Rohingya refugees entering Indonesia, particularly in Aceh.

Emphasising substantial evidence, he affirmed the government’s commitment to addressing the situation with strict measures.

Indonesia, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will also continue to coordinate with international organisations to tackle the Rohingya refugee issue.

"The provision of temporary humanitarian aid to the refugees will prioritise the interests of the local community,” Joko Widodo stressed.

On Monday, he instructed the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Mahfud MD to address the influx of Rohingya refugees landing on Aceh’s beaches since mid-November.

In response to Aceh residents raising concerns about the issue, Mahfud mentioned possible camp locations for the refugees, but the government has not yet made a decision. - Bernama

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