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Indonesia sends boat to Malaysia, rejects Rohingya refugees

Authorities said that dozens of Rohingya refugees were taken into Malaysian waters after their boat got into trouble off the coast Indonesia's Aceh Province.

A minimum of 100 people, mostly children and women, were aboard a wooden boat that was taking on water. They were refused refuge in Indonesia and instead forced into the neighboring Southeast Asian country.

The Indonesian authorities have refused to accept the calls of non-governmental organizations and the United Nations agency to allow the refugees to return home. They provided fuel, clothing, and fuel to the group, and also a technician to repair their boat.

On Tuesday, a navy official Dian Suryansyah stated that Rohingya are not Indonesian citizens and that the army cannot "simply bring them here as refugees".

He said, "This is in accord with government policy."

According to a local navy commander, the wooden boat was first seen two days ago. It was stranded approximately 70 nautical miles (130 km) off the Indonesian coast.

Myanmar is rife with discrimination against the Rohingya.

The United Nations declared that the military-backed campaign was genocide. In 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were driven across the border to Bangladesh by the military. They have lived in sprawling refugee camps since then.

'Unconscionable'

The Indonesian authorities are not pushing back Rohingya refugees in Indonesia as much as Thailand or Malaysia, but instead they reluctantly accept them when they arrive by sea.

Amnesty International, UNHCR and Amnesty International have urged the government to allow the Rohingya refugees who are still stranded to land.

Usman Hamid (executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia) stated to Al Jazeera, that Indonesia was not complying with its international obligation to turn back refugees.

He said from Jakarta that Indonesia's decision to send a boat carrying the ill-fated refugees back to Malaysia was unconscionable. International law clearly imposes obligations upon states, including Indonesia, to protect refugee rights.

Hamid claimed that officials from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs were reluctant to assist the Rohingya stranded by the coronavirus pandemic. This reasoning was incorrect.

He said that Indonesia could still follow strict health protocols to prevent disease spread and to keep it from spreading, without having to push them back to high seas.

Jakarta was also asked by the UNHCR to allow the passengers to disembark from the boat, pointing out its unseaworthiness.

Badruddin Yunus was a leader in the local fishing community. He told the AFP news agency that 120 fishermen had reported being on the boat, with 51 children and 60 women.

He stated that the engine had failed and that the refugees couldn't communicate with local fishermen because of the language barrier.

Last year, hundreds fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and arrived in Indonesia.

Many fled to Malaysia after being drawn by the large Rohingya population.

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