Humanitarian mission for Rohingya ‘not enough’
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The humanitarian mission to Myanmar should be further empowered by having the Indonesian government exert political pressure on Myanmar in order to ensure the protection of the Rohingya Muslims, lawyers have said.
“We are sending them logistical aid, treating them as though they were victims of natural disasters, when what they need most is legal status, adequate livelihoods and a stable future,” Mahendradatta, one of a team of Muslim lawyers, said in Jakarta on Saturday.
“The most significant problem is their legal status, and Indonesia’s government should put more pressure on the Myanmar government to grant them citizenship,” he added.
According to data from the Foreign Ministry, 394 Rohingya have sought refugee status in Indonesia, with 124 of them ready to settle in other third countries.
The remaining 270 displaced persons are being sheltered at a number of refugee camps in the country.
According to Mahendradatta, the Indonesian government cannot offer them citizenship because the law does not allow refugees to apply for citizenship.
“These people have no legal status. They can’t get jobs. They can’t own land. It is as if they were living dead,” Mahendradatta said.
“The only way is to force the Myanmar government to give them legal status, and to ensure their security as citizens,” he added.
Meanwhile, some of the Rohingya refugees who are in Indonesia have expressed their refusal to return home, fearing the ongoing dispute between the Muslims and the Buddhist majority.
Farouk Husein, 32, arrived in Medan, North Sumatra, in December 2010 after traveling for months, having escaped from Rakhine state.
He and his children fled first to Bangladesh, then moved to Thailand and ended up arriving in Indonesia, where they are waiting to move on again to seek asylum.
“We are heartened by the fact that Indonesians have welcomed us so warmly, and we have been given security and aid. But, please don’t send us home. We are in the process of seeking asylum in another country,” Husein told The Jakarta Post.
“I would rather kill myself than return home and face that torture again,” he added.
Husein is one of 173 Rohingya refugees who are living in Medan. He said that his brother had been killed in a clash between Muslims and Buddhists in 1992.
“Some of our people were killed when they tried to get away; but when I fled to Bangladesh, they just let us go. It’s as if they no longer want us there in the country,” said Husein.
Muhammad Kasim, 35, a Rakhine Muslim who has been in Medan since 2010, said he had left Myanmar to seek a better future.
“We were living like animals. We had no legal status. We had identity cards but it was written on them that we were only living in Myanmar temporarily, even though we were born there,” Kasim said.
Last week, the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) signed a cooperation agreement with the Myanmarese Red Cross to provide financial and technical assistance for short- and long-term programs.
The PMI, chaired by former vice president Jusuf Kalla, had also sent personnel and humanitarian aid, comprising eight staff, 500 sanitary kits, 3,000 blankets and 10,000 sarongs, valued at more than US$100 million. (nad)