Amnesty International reported (24 June) that a boat carrying 94 Rohingya refugees was stranded in waters just off Aceh. In a statement, the rights group urged the Indonesian authorities to ensure the group’s rescue, disembarkation, and protection. As the Executive Director of Amnesty International Indonesia said, “In the time of COVID-19, we urge all countries in the region to ensure the wellbeing of refugees and not to send them back to the sea. Under international law, all countries have the obligation to protect and rescue people at risk of serious harm.” However, the Indonesian government stated that the group would be pushed back once their broken vessel is fixed. In videos shared by the Asia Pacific Refugee RIghts Network (APRRN), locals can be seen demonstrating, urging the Indonesian government to alter its policy and allow the stranded women, children, and men to disembark. Reports subsequently suggested that the local community had helped the group of refugees to land. (Numerous other countries in the Asia-Pacific region have refused to rescue Rohingya boats during the pandemic, including Malaysia and Thailand. See our updates on this platform)
Although Indonesia recognised refugees and asylum seekers as a vulnerable group during the pandemic, authorities have reportedly not conducted any practical actions to protect such communities. According to ARPPN, refugees have not been provided with protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitiser, despite many continuing to live in overcrowded and cramped apartments (see 4 April update). Information about the virus was also not delivered to refugees by the government in a language they could understand—authorities have instead relied upon NGOs to translate and relay crucial health information during the crisis. Undocumented migrants, meanwhile, many of whom have previously faced rejections from hospitals, remain unwilling to access treatment and testing. While the IOM provides some healthcare to non-nationals, this is limited to emergency care only.
Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, activists called on the government to do more to uphold the rights of refugees in the country—particularly given the limited attention that authorities provided to them in their response to the pandemic. Although the country has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, according to UNHCR, some 13,534 refugees were registered in the country in May 2020.
- Amnesty International, “Rescue Rohingya Refugees Adrift Near Aceh Province,” 24 June 2020, https://www.amnesty.id/rescue-rohingya-refugees-adrift-near-aceh-province/
- Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, “Twitter,” 25 June 2020, https://twitter.com/APRRN_/status/1276061913135239168
- The Jakarta Post, “Amnesty Urges Indonesia to Protect Rohingya Stranded in Aceh Waters,” 25 June 2020, https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/06/25/amnesty-urges-indonesia-to-protect-rohingya-stranded-in-aceh-waters.html
- Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, “Indonesia: Lack of Access to Healthcare for Refugees and Barriers to Providing Legal Aid,” 17 June 2020, http://aprrn.info/indonesia-lack-of-access-to-healthcare-for-refugees-and-barriers-to-providing-legal-aid/
- Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, “Indonesia: Activisits Call Attention to Stronger Refugee Protection in the National Covid-19 Response Under World Refugee Day Discussions,” 22 June 2020, http://aprrn.info/indonesia-activists-call-attention-to-stronger-refugee-protection-in-the-national-covi-19-response-under-world-refugee-day-discussions/
- J. Joniad, “Across Indonesia, Latest Covid-19 Surge Adds to Woes of Refugees in Limbo,” Southeast Asia Globe, 31 May 2020, https://southeastasiaglobe.com/refugees-covid-19-indonesia/
- A Fishing Boat Carrying Dozens of Rohingya Refugees is Rescued in the Waters of North Aceh on 24 June 2020, (Nova Wahyudi, Antara, “Amnesty Urges Indonesia to Protect Rohingya Stranded in Aceh Waters,” The Jakarta Post, 25 June 2020, https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/06/25/amnesty-urges-indonesia-to-protect-rohingya-stranded-in-aceh-waters.html)