Rohingya Refugee Boat Capsizes in Aceh, Locals Reject Their Arrival

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Aceh Barat, Indonesia – A boat carrying dozens of Rohingya refugees capsized in the waters off Meulaboh, Aceh Barat, on Thursday (March 21st). While 69 people were successfully evacuated, their arrival at a temporary shelter was met with resistance from local residents.

According to Deputy Police Chief of Aceh Barat, Iswahyudi, the refugees were blocked by residents while en route to Desa Beureugang, Kaway XVI sub-district. Locals erected barricades on the road, preventing the vehicles carrying the refugees from passing.

“They blocked the road, setting up barricades that stopped the vehicles from getting through. We were escorting the refugees at the time,” Iswahyudi told BBC News Indonesia on Thursday.

To avoid any potential clashes, authorities ultimately transported the refugees to the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) building in Suwakraya, Johan Pahlawan sub-district, Aceh Barat.

Previously, the Acting Sub-district Head of Samatiga, M. Asmiruddin Al Nur, had stated that the refugees would be housed in a former government-run COVID-19 treatment facility located in Desa Beureugang.

Rejection of Rohingya refugees in Aceh isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2015, hundreds of Rohingya refugees who landed in Aceh faced similar opposition from both locals and the local government.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group who hail from Myanmar. They’ve endured persecution for decades within the country. The United Nations has labeled the Rohingya crisis as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Reasons for Rejection

Locals who oppose the arrival of Rohingya refugees in Aceh Barat cite several reasons, including:

  • Fear of disease outbreaks
  • Concerns about potential friction with the local population
  • The perceived inability of the local government to adequately house and meet the needs of the refugees

Government Response

The Indonesian government has expressed its commitment to assisting Rohingya refugees. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi stated that Indonesia will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the Rohingya and advocate for a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Myanmar.

The capsizing of the Rohingya refugee boat in Aceh Barat and the subsequent rejection by locals highlight a pressing humanitarian crisis that demands the serious attention of both the government and the international community. A comprehensive solution is needed to address the Rohingya crisis and support the refugees who have lost their homes and livelihoods.


  • BBC News Indonesia:

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