Indonesia president suspects human trafficking behind increased Rohingya arrivals

  • World
  • Friday, 08 Dec 2023

Rohingya Muslim refugees rest at a port warehouse that is used as temporary shelter, in Sabang, Aceh province, Indonesia, December 8, 2023. REUTERS/Riska Munawarah

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia strongly suspects human trafficking is behind a recent increase in arrivals of Rohingya Muslims on its territory, its president said on Friday, promising to work with international groups to deal with the issue.

More than 1,200 Rohingya people, a persecuted minority from Myanmar, have landed ashore in Indonesia since November, according to the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR) in Indonesia, prompting concern among local communities about the scale of the exodus this year.

For years many Rohingya have embarked on perilous journeys on rickety boats, hoping to reach neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh or further afield Malaysia and Indonesia, both Muslim majority countries. They take to the sea mostly between November and April when seas are calmer.

Indonesia has long been a safe haven for Rohingya, but the high volume of arrivals in recent weeks has seen an increase in negative sentiment on social media and some pushback from people in Aceh, the westernmost region where most landings take place.

"There is a strong suspicion that human trafficking networks are involved ... Indonesia will take firm action against them," President Joko Widodo said in a livestreamed video, without elaborating.

Indonesia will also give temporary humanitarian aid to the Rohingya but keep prioritising local residents, he said.

A demonstration took place at a Rohingya shelter in Sabang in Aceh on Thursday, with local people seeking their relocation elsewhere soon, according to local media, which showed video footage of the protest.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees but has a history of taking in refugees when they arrive, earning praise from the UNHCR.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia and Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In World

Ukraine welcomes West's discussion of direct intervention, Russia warns against it
Kremlin warns of conflict with NATO if alliance troops fight in Ukraine
Brazil's Lula spotlights Global South in G20 presidency
Russia jails rights campaigner Orlov for 2-1/2 years
Thai opposition figure will fight 'tooth and nail' for party's survival
North Korea has sent 6,700 containers of munitions to Russia, South Korea says
Pakistan indicts jailed ex-PM Khan and wife on graft charges
Firefighter caught filming 14-year-old girl showering and is arrested, US cops say
Tech activists write code to save migrants in the Mediterranean
Italy's Meloni loses control of Sardinia in election defeat

Others Also Read