Bangladeshi refugees’ camp in Aceh. (Photo: Rio Tuasikal)

Bangladeshi refugees’ camp in Aceh. (Photo: Rio Tuasikal)

On a windy night Bangladeshi migrants Mohammad Koyes and Anis Miha sits at the Kuala Langsa port.  They are both in their early 20s and have just found out that he will be deported. 

“Now I have to go back to Bangladesh? It cannot be. I need a job in Malaysia or any country. I need to earn back the money that I paid the agent. Otherwise it’s going to be a big problem for my family,” Anis said. 

Muhammad Koyes says he was chasing a dream. 

“My plan was that I would work ten years in Malaysia, earn lots of money and then go home.  I dreamt of buying a small but beautiful house, open a shop and marry someone.  Then I could just rest all day and enjoy my life, no need to work anymore,” he said.

It’s a familiar story amongst this group of around 500 Bangladeshi men.  There are no women or children in their group --- most of them are between 20- 40 years old. 

Anis says he cannot meet his family penniless.  He borrowed money from his relatives to paid around three thousand US Dollars to a smugglers. 

“There are jobs in my country but the salaries are very small that’s why I wanted to go to Malaysia to get a job with a bigger salary.  Now I am in big trouble. I can’t go to Malaysia or stay in Indonesia and my money is gone,” he said. 

The people smugglers told them that the journey to Malaysia would only take a week. 

But after 6 days at sea the captain abandoned them. There were around a thousand people on board. 

The engine failed and they drifted for two months.

“Every day we just drank salty sea water. We went twenty days without food or water. It was really hard. It was very crazy,” Anis said. 

Fights broke out on board for the little food and water that there was. 

“Some people fell into the sea while they were fighting.  People were using steel and sticks to beat each other, sometimes to the death. Two of my friends died. So if I go back to Bangladesh now, what should I say to my family? I saw Myanmar people take sticks and hit my friends’ head, I confirmed he was dead. Blood was all over his body,” he said. 

The situation is better now in the refugees’ camp in Aceh. 

In the camps in Langsa the Bangladeshi and Rohingya have been separated.  A wide field divides them.  

The Rohingyas are receiving more help from local aid groups. 

Anis says it’s not fair.  

“Rohingyas are Muslims, Bangladeshis are also Muslims. But why you like that? We are both Muslims, but why like that?” he asked.

They desperately want the Indonesian government to allow them to stay and work. 

“Any job, I will do everything….Shopkeeper, construction, painting, anything, anything. I need job because my family has no food, no rice,” he said. 

Despite their horrific experiences Koyes says if he gets the money he will try again. 

“I will try to reach Malaysia or any other country. I want to be able to go back to my country and build a small shop or restaurant. This is for my family,” said Koyes.  


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