HRW calls on Indonesia to protect Rohingya refugees News
© WikiMedia (Zlatica Hoke (VOA))
HRW calls on Indonesia to protect Rohingya refugees

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called Tuesday on Indonesia to safeguard the well-being of Rohingya refugees who have recently arrived in the country. This appeal follows several reported incidents of Indonesia pushing back boats carrying Rohingya refugees.

HRW called on Indonesian authorities to cease all pushbacks of boats carrying Rohingya refugees and to investigate and end assaults on refugees. The organization urges Indonesia to allow refugees to disembark in the nearest safe port, provide protection and humanitarian assistance and investigate online incitement of violence against them. Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW, said:

The Indonesian government should ensure that Rohingya boat refugees are immediately brought ashore and protected, not pushed back to die at sea or be attacked by anti-Rohingya mobs. The government should investigate and hold accountable whoever has been mobilizing an online campaign inciting violence against Rohingya arrivals.

The Indonesian Navy, in December 2023, intercepted a vessel carrying Rohingya refugees in Indonesian waters and subsequently pushed it back, ensuring it left Indonesian territorial waters. The naval vessel had shadowed the refugee boat to prevent its return, claiming it was carrying human trafficking victims. This incident followed earlier events on the same day when a group of Indonesian students stormed a community center in Banda Aceh, forcing 137 Rohingya refugees, mainly women and children, onto trucks to relocate them within the capital.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority group in Myanmar, historically denied citizenship and subjected to violence, discrimination and persecution. The Rohingya refugee crisis intensified in August 2017 when widespread violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State forced over 742,000 Rohingya, including many children, to seek refuge in Bangladesh. The total Rohingya refugee population in Bangladesh now exceeds 960,000, concentrated in densely populated camps like Kutupalong and Nayapara in Cox’s Bazar. Approximately half are children. The government of Bangladesh has relocated around 30,000 refugees to Bhasan Char island, though challenges persist. Rohingya refugees have also sought refuge in countries like Thailand, India, Indonesia and Nepal. Armed conflicts in Myanmar have led to over 1.8 million internally displaced people within the country.

The 1951 Refugee Convention is an international treaty that defines who is a refugee and outlines the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of the countries that grant asylum. The UN adopted it to address the needs of refugees following World War II. Moreover, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees is an additional document that removed geographical and time-based restrictions from the 1951 Convention. This expansion allows any refugee, regardless of their location or the time of their displacement, to seek asylum under the principles outlined in the Convention.

Together, the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol establish the fundamental rights of refugees and the legal framework for international protection. They aim to ensure that individuals fleeing persecution or serious harm are granted asylum and are protected from being forcibly returned to situations where their lives or freedom may be at risk. However, Indonesia is neither a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention nor the 1967 Protocol.