(JAKARTA, June 27, 2020) The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations commend the local people and government of North Aceh for their initiative and lead in rescuing Rohingya refugees in distress at sea on Thursday (25/6). The assistance of the 99 Rohingya refugees in Punteut,
Lhokseumawe, should not be handled by the local government and community alone. The involvement and coordination of other elements, in particular the national government, are urgently needed.
The newly-arrived Rohingyas, mostly consisting of vulnerable women and children, have been taken to a former immigration office building previously used as a temporary shelter for refugees. After being stranded at sea since June 22, they were rescued by local fishermen and brought to land following pressing calls from the locals. They were taken to the shelter in the late afternoon from Lancok Village, around 15 kilometers from Lhokseumawe. As part of the COVID-19 health protocols, all of them have taken a Rapid Test and showed non-reactive results.
The arrival of the Rohingyas in Indonesia is not the first, and has increased since the 2015 conflict in Myanmar, which caused many to flee their homes. With the government’s initial reluctance to assist, the local community has stepped up and taken the rescue into their own hands, adhering to the prevailing adat law on solidarity and helping those in distress. This is not
the first time that the Acehnese have taken the lead in supporting Rohingya refugees.
With the 36th ASEAN Summit currently underway, this should be a momentum for ASEAN leaders to urge Myanmar to resolve and put an end to the crimes against humanity undergoing in the country, based on the recommendations of the United Nations and the UN Security Council Resolution, as issued by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
ASEAN member states must open their arms to Rohingya refugees instead of rejecting those whose lives are at risk at sea. ASEAN member states must prioritize the upholding of human rights, including refugee rights, so that the ASEAN Summit may serve as a summit for collaboration and dialogue not only for economic development but also for the humanitarian
crises, democracy, and justice in the Southeast Asian region.
The respect, protection, and fulfilment of human rights including refugees are part of numerous international conventions, particularly the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. Indonesia, despite not being a party to the 1951 Convention, has ratified the Presidential Regulation No. 125/2016 on
the Handling of Refugees from Overseas that specifically outlines the assistance and management of refugees, including provision of shelters. Indonesia has also ratified a number of international human rights instruments that should be respected and fulfilled.
Therefore, the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations recommends the Indonesian government to:

  1. Urgently implement Presidential Regulation No. 125/2016, and issue technical regulations and clarifications where needed to ensure effective coordination on the management and humane treatment of refugees. While civil society is committed to support humanitarian efforts, we feel full implementation of the regulation is still held
    back particularly by unclarity and obstacles in regards to government budgeting.
  2. Encourage the Indonesian government to immediately become a party to the 1951 Convention by accession so that the Indonesian government can be more comprehensive and efficient in protecting the rights of refugees in accordance with the commitments stated in the international conventions;
  3. Issue additional technical guidelines including quarantine mechanisms, tests, and the implementation of physical distancing to ensure the safety and health of the community and the refugees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  4. Urgently determine a more adequate shelter for the refugees, considering the current shelter (an unused immigration office) lacks many necessary facilities. The shelter built by NGOs for refugees in North Aceh has been re-used as an in-patient accommodation
    for Covid-19 patients. All other options should be considered, including the shelter facilities in Langsa;
  5. Provide access to an inclusive, sustainable and efficient solutions for the Rohingya refugees, including for men and women to seek a livelihood while in Indonesia.
  6. Urge for a resolution of the protracted abuses and denial of rights in Myanmar and engage more proactively with resettlement countries to encourage them to fulfill their commitment to resettlement of refugees and asylum-seekers in third countries.
  7. Take into account important lessons from the Rohingya response in Aceh in 2015, where civil society and humanitarian organizations collaborated with the government to fill in much-needed assistance. This is in line with Indonesia’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Compact on Refugees.

Contact persons:

Rizka Argadianti Rachmah (Ketua Perkumpulan SUAKA) – 0852 1756 6952
Rima Shah Putra (Yayasan Geutanyoë) – 082362287730
Fatia Maulidiyanti (KontraS) – 081913091992
Gading Gumilang Putra (Jesuit Refugee Service) – 08111116772
Roberto (Sandya Institute) – 081375514314
Novel Matindas (Amnesty International Indonesia) – 08118707789
Rachel Arinii Judhistari (The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development) +62 21391 9 006
Rama Adi Wibowo (Dompet Dhuafa) 08111916478