Responding to the recent arrivals of Rohingya refugees in Aceh Besar, Indonesia, Amnesty International Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said:
“Images of Rohingya refugees disembarking in Indonesia and lying on the ground exhausted from perilous weeks at sea are shocking and show the extent of suffering endured by men, women and children taking the dangerous journey.
“In the absence of an immediate, resourceful, and coordinated response by regional governments to help Rohingya refugees still aboard imperiled vessels, lives may be lost. This is unacceptable.
“This year could be one of the deadliest in recent memory for Rohingya people making the dangerous journey by sea. They continue to risk it all because of harsh conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh, where security and other living conditions have deteriorated, and the ever-worsening situation at home in Myanmar, which has been under military rule since a coup almost two years ago.
“We urge the Indonesian government to remain vigilant, step up rescue efforts, and work together with other ASEAN countries to help those in dire need at sea. Once rescued or allowed to disembark, Rohingya refugees should be given food, water, medical treatment and shelter.
“Under no circumstances should authorities send anyone back to a country where they face persecution or human rights violations.”
On Monday 26 December 2022, Amnesty International Indonesia received reports on the arrival of a boat carrying at least 180 Rohingya refugees in Aceh Besar. Local sources said most of the refugees are unwell due to starvation and weeks at sea. This arrival followed an earlier boat of 57 Rohingya refugees that disembarked on the weekend and allegedly took a similar route from Bangladesh. Amnesty International Indonesia has been told of at least one more boat still at sea.
The vessels add to the overall number of Rohingya refugees in Aceh this year. On 15-16 November, Aceh saw the arrival of 229 Rohingya refugees. The principle of non-refoulement obliges states not to return anyone to a place where they would be at risk of persecution or serious human rights violations. The principle is the cornerstone of international refugee protection and is fundamental to the absolute prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Indonesia is not yet a party to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) or its 1967 Protocol. However, the principle of non-refoulement is also protected under general international human rights law, as well as customary international law, which is binding on all states without exception.