The Future of Refugees in Aceh?

Hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees and migrants are being moved to a new shelter in Aceh, Indonesia.

Minggu, 05 Jul 2015 12:00 WIB

Muhammad Amin. (Photo: Rio Tuasikal)

Muhammad Amin. (Photo: Rio Tuasikal)

35 year old Rohingya refugee Muhammad Amin has become responsible for making government announcements in the shelters in Aceh. Today he is telling everyone the playgroup schedule for children. He lived in Malaysia for three months and can speak some Malay.

Amin is one of the 400 Rohingya refugees who were saved by Aceh fishermen. They wanted to reach Malaysia but the ship broke down, and they rescued off the coast of Aceh after being stranded at sea for more than two months.

He would like to stay in Aceh.

“With God's will, I can do everything. But that's outside of our control if Aceh people want to help us. If Indonesia government wants to give us job, it is also the decision of Indonesia, not ours,” he said.

Indonesia has said that hundreds of Rohingya refugees who were rescued off the coast of Aceh can stay in government run shelters in Langsa for one year.  But beyond that year their future is uncertain

Ibrahim, one of the fisherman who saved Amin and the others, says he is ready to have new neighbors.

“They have never begged us for food. So as along as the government is looking after them it’s not a problem having them here. They are kind and polite just like Acehnese. When I sit and they pass, they nod to me. Our politeness is quiet similar because we both are Muslim. The only difference we have is language,” he said.

But not everyone feels the same way.

Muhammad comes from a poor fishing family.

“You can see poor people like us. If there is job, we can eat. If not, we don't have food.  No one care. But with cases like this people are giving lots of aid. But no one cares about us,” he said.

When the Indonesian Minister for Social Affairs, Khofifah, came to the camp she mentioned the issue of jealously.

“We need to build a good communication for social harmony between refugees and locals. We need to identify what is the source of jealousy for the local residents. We will look the best format for resettlement. We are still writing the rules about refugees,” she said.

17 year Ismatara, a Rohingya from Mynammar needs to get to Malaysia and will try again to get there.

“My husband lives in Malaysia. I always miss my husband, brother, and grand father. And I want to live with them,” she said.

Hassan who has been living in refugee camp in Bangladesh wants to continue is education.

“If I go to Malaysia, I will study there. Because in Myanmar and Bangladesh there is no way for us to study. If I go to Malaysia I will transfer to another country. I will request the government to give me a scholarship, I will stay there and change my life. Whatever the country allow me to study, I will go there,” he said.


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