Indonesian police, fishers start patrols to stop Rohingya boats

Indonesian police, fishers start patrols to stop Rohingya boats

on November 25, 2023

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Rohingya refugees queue to board a ferry at a beach in the Sabang island of Aceh province, Indonesia on November 22, 2023, as they are relocated by Indonesian authorities. – Indonesian police and fishermen said Saturday they have begun patrolling parts of the country’s westernmost province to prevent Rohingya refugees from landing on its shores, after nearly 1,100 members of the persecuted Myanmar minority arrived this month. (Photo by Chaideer MAHYUDDIN / AFP)

LHOKSEUMAWE, Indonesia, Nov 25, 2023 (AFP) – Indonesian police and fishermen said Saturday they have begun patrolling parts of the country’s westernmost province to prevent Rohingya refugees from landing on its shores, after nearly 1,100 members of the persecuted Myanmar minority arrived this month.

Thousands from the mostly Muslim minority risk their lives each year making sea journeys from refugee camps in Bangladesh, often in flimsy boats, to try to reach Malaysia or Indonesia.

As sailing conditions eased this month, more than half a dozen boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya people from Bangladesh arrived in Aceh province, including some that locals tried to turn back to sea.

Police in East Aceh, a regency of more than 350,000 people that saw 36 Rohingya arrive on Sunday, said they have now imposed round-the-clock patrols.

The force “has instructed its subordinate police precincts with coastal areas to intensify surveillance, both along the coastline and in the waters of the Malacca Strait, to prevent the entry of Rohingya immigrants”, it said in a statement.

“The police are patrolling 24/7 to prevent Rohingya immigrants from landing in East Aceh,” said police chief Andy Rahmansyah.

In North Aceh, head of Tanoh Anoe village Amiruddin Ismail told AFP patrols were stepped up on Friday night after fishermen reported sighting a Rohingya boat two miles (three kilometres) off the coast of Muara Batu town.

Fishermen, local police and military units all conducted patrols along the coast until the alleged boat was no longer seen, he said.

Fishing community head in North Aceh’s Dewantara district Naharuddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, confirmed the patrols to AFP.

“We immediately conducted surveillance along the coastline. While fishermen went to sea… we requested them to keep an eye out,” he said.

Experts have expressed concern Indonesia will be the next country to toughen its borders to prevent Rohingya landings, with Malaysia, Thailand and India all deterring their arrivals.

Many Acehnese have long been sympathetic to the plight of their fellow Muslims.

But some say their patience has been tested, claiming the Rohingya consume scarce resources and occasionally come into conflict with locals.

More than a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the 1990s, most in the wake of a 2017 military crackdown that forced many to settle in camps in Bangladesh.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the United Nations refugee convention and says it is not compelled to take in refugees from Myanmar.