© Andrew Stanbridge / Amnesty International

More than 200 Rohingya refugees land in Indonesia as country hosts G20

Responding to the disembarkation of at least 229 Rohingya refugees in North Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh, Amnesty International Indonesia deputy director Wirya Adiwena said today:

“These arrivals are proof that Rohingya people are still willing to risk their lives at sea in search of better protection and safety. They continue to endure profound hardships in refugee camps in Bangladesh and at home in Myanmar, where they are denied their rights to freedom of movement, education and healthcare.”

“The fact that they arrived in the same country where leaders from the G20 are meeting is a profound reminder of the catastrophic failure of powerful states to intervene in a years long humanitarian and moral disaster. Global leaders must do more to alleviate this crisis and address the root causes of those willing to risk their lives to flee by boat.”

“We call on the G20 leaders, including the host country Indonesia, not to treat the refugee crisis as an isolated problem far away. They must initiate global cooperation to ensure the protection and fulfillment of the rights of refugees worldwide.”

“The safe disembarkation was made possible by the solidarity of the local communities in Aceh, who over the years have consistently lent their hands for these refugees. Indonesian authorities should follow suit by ensuring that those disembarked get their basic needs, including proper shelter, food, water, and essential medical care, fulfilled. They should lead a regional mechanism to tackle this ongoing crisis.”

“We further call for Indonesia to join the majority of G20 countries in ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to step up Indonesia’s commitment to human rights.”

Background

On Tuesday, 15 November 2022, a boat carrying an estimated 110 Rohingya refugees washed ashore at the coast of Muara Batu district of North Aceh regency, Aceh province. After disembarking, refugees were put in a local mosque before they were moved to Muara Batu district office as temporary shelter, according to information received by Amnesty.

Another group of 119 Rohingya refugees arrived in North Aceh on 16 November. They were temporarily placed in a communal hall belonging to local fishermen after they disembarked. All 229 refugees are currently waiting for the local government’s decision regarding their relocation to permanent shelters.

About 1 million Rohingya refugees live in refugee camps in Bangladesh following waves of persecution and violence by the Myanmar military. The latest campaign in 2017 pushed more than 740,000 out of Myanmar into Bangladesh in violent clearance operations.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar previously called for Myanmar’s Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other top military officials to be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Min Aung Hlaing assumed the role of Chairman of the State Administration Council following the February 2021 coup.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea has stipulated obligations to provide assistance for those in distress at sea. All states must render assistance to persons found at sea in danger of being lost, and people in distress.

The International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, states that survivors of distress incidents should be provided with assistance, regardless of their nationality or immigration status or the circumstances in which they are found. In this regard, states must ensure that all operations and procedures, such as screening and status assessment of rescued persons, are carried out after disembarkation to a place of safety.