Indonesia expects the expansion of Rohingya refugees to be related to human trafficking.
Yasemin Beyza Uçar
South and East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The Indonesian president stated that the increasing number of Rohingya Muslims in Indonesia may be related to human trafficking. President Joko Widodo said also that he received reports regarding the expanding number of Rohingya refugees that are arriving in Indonesia’s Aceh Province. This flow of refugees is causing enormous suspicion of a criminal human trafficking network, to which the president made sure to announce on the televised news conference, that the government will take action against human trafficking perpetrators. Recently three residents were arrested in the Aceh Province under the suspicion of helping around 30 Rohingya refugees to leave their camps. The Lhokseumawe police chief then uncovered that these suspects were provided with 1.8 million rupiahs to smuggle refugees (Edna Tarigan, Rahmat Mirza, 2023).
Now, the Indonesian government is investigating the situation to understand the increasing number of Rohingya refugees. Indonesia is not the final destination of these refugees and traces of human trafficking have been found. Therefore, Indonesia is now trying to prevent human trafficking to avoid problems with the Rohingya refugees in the future. At the same time, Indonesia is not a party to the 1952 United Nations (UN) Refugee Convention and therefore coordinates the refugee situation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Shelters are being arranged in such a way that the refugees will not affect the locals and there will be strict monitoring to prevent any possibilities of trafficking. Shelters and protection are expensive and the coordination with the UNHCR’s mandate includes supporting refugees, which is to Indonesia’s advantage. (Yashinta P, Kenzu, 2023).
The coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs stated that the Indonesian government will not build any more shelters for the Rohingya refugees. The available shelters are currently full since the Rohingya refugees filled up the space within a short timeframe. Additionally, locals who live in the Aceh Province stated that they are not comfortable with the refugee situation and expressed their rejection. Mohammad Mahfud summarised this situation and said that the shelters are full, the locals are unhappy, and the government will not provide more shelters, however, he then added that help will still be provided for the sake of humanity. He also mentioned that the government is putting in efforts to find different locations with temporary shelters for the Rohingya refugees (Hana Dewi Kinarina K, Resinta Sulistiyandari, 2023).
Retno Marsudi, the foreign affairs minister, is emphasising that the problem with the Rohingya refugees must be resolved by bringing an end to the root trigger. She is thereby referring to the ongoing violence in Myanmar between the military junta and the civilians. Marsudi is currently inviting the international community to stick together and work toward peace in Myanmar so that the Rohingya refugees could be able to return to their homes (Yashinta Difa, Raka Adji, 2023).
Sources and further readings:
Edna Tarigan, Rahmat Mirza. (2023, December 8). Indonesia suspects human trafficking is behind the increasing number of Rohingya refugees. AP News. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from Indonesia suspects human trafficking is behind the increasing number of Rohingya refugees | AP News
Yashinta P, Kenzu. (2023, December 18). Human smuggling suspected in Rohingya refugee influx: Indonesian VP. Antara News. Retrieved December 22, 2023, from Human smuggling suspected in Rohingya refugee influx: Indonesian VP - ANTARA News
Hana Dewi Kinarina K, Resinta Sulistiyandari. (2023, December 20). Govt to stop building temporary shelters for Rohingya refugees. Antara News. Retrieved December 23, 2023, from Govt to stop building temporary shelters for Rohingya refugees - ANTARA News
Yashinta Difa, Raka Adji. (2023, December 14). Need to promptly resolve root problem of Rohingya refugees: Marsudi. Antara News. Retrieved December 23, 2023, from Need to promptly resolve root problem of Rohingya refugees: Marsudi - ANTARA News