The Jakarta Post
The government has started to repatriate Bangladeshi migrants residing in Aceh to their home country.
The Foreign Ministry has recorded as many as 122 migrants are in the process of being sent home.
'As many as 97 refugees have returned home at four different times since June to July 13, while another 25 will depart on July 25 from Medan [North Sumatra],' said Andy Rachmianto, the ministry's international security and disarmament director.
The ministry has coordinated with the Bangladeshi government for the repatriation and received support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to fund the return.
'The US and Australia have helped in funding the trip through the IOM,' he added.
Andy said that the government aimed to send back all 1,800 people originating from Bangladesh and Myanmar who have become stranded in Aceh, within one year.
'Foreign Minister Retno, [Marsudi] during a meeting with foreign ministers from Malaysia and Thailand agreed in Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia] to return all the 1,800 refugees within a year although we all know the challenges, especially in the case of Myanmar's [Rohingya asylum seekers],' he said.
After the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Retno headed straight to Myanmar to discuss the problem.
'So far, there is no statement from Myanmar [about accepting the return of Rohingya Muslims],' Andy remarked.
Nevertheless, Myanmar has supported efforts to provide shelters for the refugees in Aceh.
'We welcome them to help in building public and social facilities [for the comfort of people staying in Aceh]. We already built a school there too,' Andy said.
About 1,800 refugees landed on Aceh's coast in May. Around 1,000 of them originated from Myanmar and the rest from Bangladesh.
Aside from those seeking asylum in Indonesia, Rohingya people are also stranded in Malaysia and Thailand.
Labeled by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities, the Rohingya have for decades suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they have limited access to education or adequate health care.
In the last three years, attacks by Buddhist mobs have left 280 people dead and forced 140,000 others from their homes. They now live under harsh conditions in crowded camps just outside the capital of western Myanmar's Rakhine state, Sittwe.
Thousands of Rohingya have fled deadly communal unrest in Rakhine since 2012.
Myanmar views its population of roughly 800,000 Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants and denies them citizenship.
According to the ministry, Indonesia has accommodated around 13,000 refugees and asylum seekers from around 40 countries, with the majority from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
'They are now accommodated in 13 immigration detention centers as well as community centers across the archipelago, waiting for settlement,' Andy said.
In May, 65 asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka arrived on Rote Island after being intercepted by the Australian navy en route to New Zealand.
Claims were made to local police on the island that the captain and five crew were each paid US$5,000 to return.
The Australian government has so far not formally clarified the payment matter with Indonesia.
'It doesn't matter that we didn't get clarification about the [alleged] illicit payments from Australia.
The Rote Police have investigated the case. They have successfully settled seven cases of people smuggling [recently] and the convicts have been sentenced to five to 10 years in prison,' ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters. (rbk)
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