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Indonesian government asks for international help with Rohingya refugees

INDONESIA appealed to the international community for help today as more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees have arrived on its shores by boat since November.

Indonesia once tolerated such landings while Thailand and Malaysia pushed them away.

But the growing hostility of some Indonesians toward the Rohingya, who have fled their homes in Myanmar to overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh, has put pressure on President Joko Widodo’s government to take action.

“We see that the handling of the refugee problem, especially the resettlement issue, has been very slow so far,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Iqbal told a news conference in the capital, Jakarta. He urged the international community to “show more responsibility in efforts to resolve the Rohingya refugee problem.”

Indonesia, like Thailand and Malaysia, is not a signatory to the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention outlining their legal protections.

Mr Widodo said on Monday that the Indonesian government will still help the refugees temporarily.

“We are still talking to international organisations, such as UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) ... since the locals don’t accept them,” the president told reporters.

About 740,000 Rohingya resettled in camps in Bangladesh after fleeing their homes in neighbouring Myanmar to escape a brutal counterinsurgency campaign carried out in 2017 by security forces.

Accusations of mass rape, murder and the burning of entire villages are well documented, and international courts are considering whether Myanmar authorities committed genocide and other grave rights abuses.

Efforts to repatriate the Rohingya have failed because of doubts their safety can be assured. The Muslim Rohingya are largely denied citizenship rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and face widespread social discrimination.

Most of the refugees leaving by sea attempt to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia in search of work.


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