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Aid floods in for Rohingya, but fate remains uncertain

Publication Date : 05-08-2012


The widespread sympathy toward the Myanmarese Rohingya Muslim refugees has started to overwhelm the Tanjung Pinang Immigration Detention Centre in the Riau Islands, as Islamic groups and legislators give donations in the form of money, clothes and food.

However, Tanjung Pinang Immigration Detention Centre head Yunus Juned has rejected the aid.

“Sympathy for them is extremely high right now. We must reject any kind of donation we receive for them for numerous reasons. Please, make these donations to the IOM [the International Organisation for Migration],” said Yunus.

He said that many parties, including Muslim groups and both local and House of Representatives legislators, had visited the detention centre to see the condition as of the refugees.

“We have taken care of all their meals. Some groups wished to provide them food for the pre-dawn meal, but we have to reject it. I’m afraid to take the risk of something happening, such as poisoning, if they eat food from outside. This is my responsibility,” said Yunus.

Yunus said that 82 Rohingya refugees were currently accommodated at the centre and they had been there since the end of 2011.

The first batch consisted of 22 people, 60 others were sent by the Lhokseumawe Immigration Centre in North Aceh in February 2012.

Saibansyah, a member of Riau Islands chapter of the Islam Defenders Front said that the initiative to provide donations to the refugees was due to press reports on the massacres in their home country.

Many Rohingya refugees have reportedly left Myanmar, following the violence in the west of the country that left at least 78 people dead. Many of them are seeking safety and asylum from the Indonesian government, with some apparently hoping to continue on to Australia for the same purpose.

In Medan, North Sumatra, there are as many as 107 Rohingya refugees in the city, said Medan Polonia Immigration Enforcement and Supervision section head Setia Budi Utama.

They entered Indonesia through harbors in the province, such as Belawan and Tanjung Balai.

Setia said that they were being accommodated at several locations: 43 people in the Pelangi Hotel, 18 in the Sentabe Hotel, 19 in YPAP, one in Top Inn Hotel and 26 in the Belawan Immigration Detention Centre.

Budi said the Rohingya refugees were accommodated with refugees from other countries, such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

During their stay in the region, Budi continued, it is the IOM which covers the living costs.

“For those who have been registered, the IOM provides them with monthly living expenses of 1.5 million rupiah (US$158) per person,” said Budi, adding the distribution of living expenses was, thus far, smooth.

Muhammad Jamin, a Rohingya refugee, said he arrived in Indonesia via Malaysia after a rough voyage by boat. Jamin, his wife and two young children arrived at Balawan Port last week.

“We couldn’t stand living in Myanmar because we were treated very discriminatively. We have been treated like a slaves. We have to work every day if not we get very harsh treatment,” Jamin said at the Belawan Immigration Detention Centre on Friday.

“We know that Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country. That’s why we surrendered ourselves to the state, so we could get asylum,” said Jamin, hoping the Indonesian government could protect them during their stay in Medan.

Meantime, 14 asylum seekers, en route to Australia, were in the custody of Kupang Immigration officials after being evacuated from a hotel in a Kupang suburb on Thursday night.


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