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Aceh: Migrants Find Shelter on Indone...
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
08 Jun 2015

Muslim Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Burma and Bangladeshis escaping poverty in their country have found welcoming shores in Aceh, North Indonesia, after gruesome and dangerous journeys in the sea at the hands of mafias of human trafficking. In early May, thousands of them found themselves at the centre of a regional emergency when Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia refused to accept them.

After Thailand cracked down on human trafficking networks who had been operating in the region for years, the traffickers abandoned the boats, leaving their victims adrift with virtually no food and water. The Rohingya and Bangladeshi have been paying human smugglers for years to take them to Malaysia. Many of these smugglers turned out to be traffickers who held their human cargo hostage in camps along the border between Thailand and Malaysia until their families paid ransoms of thousands of dollars.

On 20 May, Malaysia and Indonesia finally agreed to allow the boats ashore after pushing them back to the sea for two weeks. Before that, at a time when the policy of their governments was to deny entry to the Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants, fishermen form the province of Aceh, in Indonesia, rescued three boats carrying almost 2,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi people, defying the orders from the Indonesian Navy.

The Rohingya, widely regarded in Myanmar as Bangladeshi interlopers despite tracing their ancestry in the country for generations, were stripped of citizenship in 1982 and have lived under apartheid-like conditions ever since. Their situation worsened in 2012, when a wave of sectarian violence between the Rakhine Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority engulfed Rakhine State, leaving dozens of dead. The violence also left 140,000 internally displaced people, mostly Rohingya confined in overcrowded camps lacking the most basic facilities.

With scarce means of livelihood and virtually no access to health care or education, in recent years an increasing number of Rohingya have taken their chances embarking to Malaysia. Economic migrants from Bangladesh have increasingly joined the Rohingya. They are fleeing poverty in one of the most impoverished and overpopulated nations in Asia.

While the Bangladeshi migrants are certain that they will be repatriated at some point, and personnel from their embassy have already visited the camps to verify their identities, the future of the Rohingya is more uncertain. They can’t be sent back to their country and the process to resettle them in third countries might take years.

Nevertheless, the Acehnese population seems to have welcomed those who have arrived to their coast with open arms. Many Acehnese visit them to the camps and their donations are making sure there are no shortages of food, and some are lobbying to shelter the Rohingya refugees indefinitely in Aceh.

“I really wish they will stay permanently in Aceh. I have lobbied the Governor of Aceh on this matter, and will raise it with the head of the Senate,” said Rafly, a famous Acehnese singer and Senator.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Migrants in Indonesia 10
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
08 Jun 2015

Rohingya refugees, Bangladeshi migrants and aid workers pray together at Bayeun camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 8 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 17
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
07 Jun 2015

Bangladeshi migrant lies on the floor with fever at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 7 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 08
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
07 Jun 2015

Bangladeshi migrant at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 7 June 2015. Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants are sheltered in separated compounds because there was a fight between both communities when they were stranded at sea in the same boat in which 100 people reportedly died.

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Migrants in Indonesia 11
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
05 Jun 2015

Rohingya woman prays at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 5 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 12
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
05 Jun 2015

A Rohingya girl looks at herself in the mirror after her mother has combed her hair at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 5 June 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 18
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
27 May 2015

Bangladeshi migrants at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 27 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 19
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
27 May 2015

Bangladeshi migrants at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 27 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 09
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
27 May 2015

Bangladeshi migrants at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 27 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 05
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
26 May 2015

Rohingya refugee at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 26 May 2015. This camp shelters 330 Rohingya refugees who arrived to the coasts of Aceh on 10th May. 190 Bangladeshi migrants who travelled in the same boat are now held in an immigration center waiting for their repatriation.

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Migrants in Indonesia 06
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
26 May 2015

A group of Rohingya refugees plays volleyball at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 26 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 07
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
26 May 2015

Two Rohingya women wash their clothes at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 26 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 16
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
25 May 2015

Rohingya girl plays at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 25 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 20
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
25 May 2015

Rohingya refugee eats at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 25 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 03
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
25 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee receives an injection against tetanus at Kuala Cangkoi camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 25 May 2015. Like many other women in the camp, she had never seen a syringe before. She was so terrified of the instrument that she had to be restrained by Acehnese medical personnel in order to administer the injection.

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Migrants in Indonesia 21
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

Rohingya refugee sleeps at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 22
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya women wait to get aid from the Taiwanese NGO Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 01
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya refugees take a rest at Kuala Langsa Port Camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015. This camp shelters 231 Rohingya refugees from Burma and 425 migrants from Bangladesh who reached the Indonesian coast on 15th May after being rescued by Acehnese fishermen. While the migrants from Bangladesh will be repatriated to their country, the future of the Rohingya refugees is more uncertain, as the Burmese government doesn’t recognize them as citizens in their own country.

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Migrants in Indonesia 04
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya refugees wait to get clothes donated by local people at Bayeun camp, in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 13
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A group of Rohingya women wait to get aid from the Taiwanese NGO Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 14
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
23 May 2015

A Rohingya child sleeps in the floor at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 23 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 24
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
22 May 2015

Rohingya refugee at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 22 May 2015.

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Migrants in Indonesia 02
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
22 May 2015

Group of Rohingya women at the Bayeun Camp, in the outskirts of Langsa City, Aceh Province, Indonesia, 22 May 2015. This camp shelters341 Rohingya refugees from Burma and 92 migrants from Bangladesh who reached the Indonesian coast on 20th May after being rescued by Acehnese fishermen. While all Bangladeshi are men, there are many women and children among the Rohingya.

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Migrants in Indonesia 15
Aceh, Indonesia
By Carlos Sardiña Galache
22 May 2015

An Acehnese policeman gives candies to Rohingya children at Bayeun camp in Aceh Province, Indonesia, 22 May 2015.

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Rescued Rohingya Migrants Find Shelte...
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Nearly 1,000 refugees from the oppressed Rohingya minority in Myanmar, and economic migrants from Bangladesh have washed ashore in Aceh, Indonesia after harrowing journeys drifting in the sea, being abandoned by their traffickers.

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 01
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Refugees sit in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 13
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Refugees pick through donated clothing after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar on Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 14
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Indonesian police keep an eye on Bangladeshi refugees two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 16
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
19 May 2015

Refugees sit in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 02
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees from Bangladesh rest for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 03
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee sits in a holding facility set up by Indonesian officials at the fishing port of Langsa after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 04
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees rest in a warehouse after they were rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 05
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Refugees sit in a medical tent receiving IV's after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 06
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee being treated with an IV is helped to a cot after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 07
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee lies in a medical tent receiving an IV after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015 in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 08
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

Mohammed Dabio, a Rohingya from Bangladesh shows wounds he says he received during beatings by smugglers as he sits in a medical tent after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying 712 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Saturday May 16, 2015, in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 09
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A sick Rohingya refugee from Myanmar weeps in the warehouse where she has been staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 11
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar looks after her sick baby in the warehouse where she has been staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingya in Indonesia 12
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar looks after her sick baby in the warehouse where she has been staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)

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Rohingyas in Indonesia 15
Aceh, Indonesia
By Ed Wray
17 May 2015

A refugee from Bangladesh escorts a sick man out of a warehouse where they and other refugees are staying for two days after being rescued from a sinking boat carrying over 700 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar Sunday May 17, 2015 in a makeshift holding facility set up by Indonesian authorities in Langsa, Indonesia.(Photo by Ed Wray)