Governments across south-east Asia are turning away boats but in Aceh locals took matters into their own hands. On Thursday afternoon, residents of Aceh, Indonesia, waded back and forth in water helping Rohingya refugees clamber to safety. Exhausted children were passed between rescuers.
Nearly 100 Rohingya asylum seekers, including 30 children, stranded off the coast of Indonesia were pulled to shore on Thursday by locals angered at the refusal of authorities to give them shelter over coronavirus fears. Amid concerns that local authorities were debating whether to send the refugees out to sea after their boat repairs, the Indonesian government have released statements that they are working with civil society groups as well as the UNHCR and the IOM to ensure the well being of the rescued group and are providing humanitarian aid. Earlier on Thursday, local police chief Eko Hartanto said they wanted to send the Rohingya back to sea rather than give them temporary shelter. But authorities appeared to soften that stance in the face of local protests, and the weary group are now temporarily being put up in private residences. The Rohingya would be checked by medical staff to ensure they were virus-free, according to Aceh’s rescue agency.
The actions of the locals and the government has received praise from activists and Rohingya advocacy groups such as the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation and other coalition groups including SUAKA, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Working Group.