Indonesia urges international community to aid migrants

Indonesia urges international community to aid migrants
President says country calculating budget for sheltering Rohingya; military launches search and rescue operation

 Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on the international community Sunday to participate – especially financially – in sheltering Muslim Rohingya migrants rescued from the Andaman Sea.

“Assistance to refugees is a humanitarian activity,” MetroTV quoted Widodo – popularly known as “Jokowi” – as saying in Surakarta city, Central Java province.

Adding that Indonesia’s government would allocate a special budget to help the Rohingya who fled Myanmar, he insisted on support from the international community – particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We want to get a certainty that the financial costs, after we accommodate [the migrants], will be supported by the UN and other countries. Although we will definitely spend funding,” the president stressed.

“We are still counting and calculating the budget needed,” he added.

Last week, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to offer temporary shelter to Rohingya migrants – but only if the international community agrees to then resettle them after one year. Both countries, however, said Bangladeshis from stranded boats would be returned to their country.

Although the countries had previously been turning away boats after thousands of migrants began landing on their shores following a Thai crackdown on trafficking, Indonesia has since followed Malaysia’s example by launching a search and rescue operation Saturday.

Following a presidential order, Indonesia’s military has mobilized four warships, two pontoon vessels and a patrol plane in the Andaman.

Meanwhile, the minister of social affairs paid a visit Sunday to migrants in northern Aceh province, where residents have been providing shelter, food and clothing to the people washing ashore.

“As a government representative, I want to express gratitude to the Acehnese for your kindness,” Khofifah Indar Parawansa said, according to state news agency Antara.

“I hope your initiatives are being recorded by the angels, and surely the angel will not note wrongly,” she said, adding that the ministry had distributed assistance worth Rp2.3 billion (around $175,000) to four shelters in Aceh.

The government will also give social recovery assistance – including trauma healing and counseling – to the Rohingya, according to Parawansa.

Regarding government policy on separating the Rohingya from the Bangladeshis, she said, “the minister of legal and human rights has traveled to Medan today to speed up the repatriation process [of the Bangladeshis].”

Since Indonesia is not a signatory of a UN Refugee Convention obliging the resettlement of refugees, the minister said the government would issue a “government regulation in lieu of law” to handle the issue.

According to National Agency for Disaster Management data, there are currently 1,722 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar being sheltered in four areas of Aceh.