UCA News


Indonesia urged to take in Rohingya refugees

Concern mounts for the safety of hundreds of people approaching the country on two boats

Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Indonesia urged to take in Rohingya refugees

Suspected Rohingya people after arriving in Idi Rayeuk in Indonesia’s east Aceh in December 2018. Indonesian authorities are being urged to take in hundreds of Rohingya refugees on two boats heading for Aceh. (Photo: Cek Mad/AFP)

Share this article :
A group of religious leaders, scholars, and activists have appealed to the Indonesian government to rescue hundreds of Rohingya refugees heading to the country in boats to avoid conflict at home in Myanmar.

The appeal came after the Indonesian Maritime and Air Police reported on May 15 that at least 500 Rohingya refugees were approaching Indonesia’s Aceh province in Sumatra in two boats.

The Rohingya reportedly fled Myanmar after the military attacked civilians in Rakhine state on April 29. They were expected to arrive in Aceh or nearby areas early this week.

“We deem it necessary for the authorities in this country to permit all ships carrying the refugees to dock, for humanitarian reasons,” the group said in a statement on May 15.

The group includes Jesuit Father Franz Magnis Suseno, a lecturer at the Jakarta Driyarkara School of Philosophy, Rev. Henriette T. Lebang of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, and Usman Hamid from Amnesty International Indonesia.

They said the government should allow and welcome "persons in distress" to dock temporarily.

The United Nations Convention on the Law on the Sea and the International Maritime Organization obliges coastal countries, including Indonesia, to conduct adequate and effective search and rescue for those whose life is in danger at sea.

They also said that as an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member, Indonesia is bound by the ASEAN Charter to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“We urged the government to not refuse and push back ships with hundreds of Rohingya refugees who are trying to find a safe place [in Indonesian territory],” Usman Hamid, executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, told UCA News on May 16.

He called on the government not to use the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to turn the refugees away.

“The Covid-19 pandemic should not blunt our sense of humanity. Applying health protocol, we can protect the Rohingya people from the virus and ease their suffering,” Usman said.

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, representative of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights Indonesia, told UCA News that the pandemic "is a time for compassion, especially for those who are marginalized and desperately need assistance, such as the Rohingya."

Indonesian Maritime and Air Police director Jemmy Rosdiantoro said authorities would continue to monitor the refugees.

“We have instructed all personnel to increase sea patrols to anticipate the arrival of the Rohingyas in Aceh,” he said without saying whether the refugees would be allowed to land. 

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM


Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."