Indonesia to Send Home Bangladeshi Boat People

By Nurdin Hasan
2015.05.29
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150529-ID-bangladeshis-620 Muhammad Malik (right) and other Bangladeshis talk to BenarNews in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, May 26, 2015.
Photo: Benar

Indonesia plans to deport more than 800 Bangladeshis who came ashore in Aceh province this month after local fishermen rescued them off smugglers’ boats.

But many don’t want to go home.

They say they want to reach Malaysia – or any place where they can find work – after months at sea, where they endured beatings and extortion at the hands of human smugglers.

Al Hudri, the provincial government’s director of social affairs, said the Bangladeshi migrants – now housed at different locations in Aceh – would be deported in stages.

“Soon, they will be moved to Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, while awaiting repatriation to Bangladesh,” he told BenarNews in Banda Aceh on Friday.

Md. Nazmul Quaunine, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Indonesia, visited his compatriots after their rescue off the coast of Indonesia’s westernmost province, according to Hudri.

“But up to now we still don’t have a fixed schedule for their repatriation. Immigration officials and the central government will decide when the repatriation will take place,” he said.

“There is no reason not to deport them because they are economic migrants.”

Sold everything

Several migrants from Bangladesh told BenarNews they had no hope for a better life back home.

They want the Indonesian government to help them find jobs or allow them to travel on to Malaysia.

Muhammad Tourizar Rahman, 25, said he sold all his belongings to pay an agent U.S. $3,000 to take him to Malaysia.

He and 246 other migrants are being sheltered at the Lhokseumawe immigration office in Punteut village.

“I don’t want to go back to Bangladesh because I can’t make money there,” he said.

“I want to go to any country, to work.”

Before leaving Dhaka three months ago, an agent promised Rahman that he would be paid U.S. $640 a month as a plantation worker in Malaysia. Working for a cleaning service in Bangladesh, he had earned just U.S. $64 a month.

Duped

Many of the Bangladesh migrants say that brokers tricked them with false promises of jobs abroad.

Abdul Motin, 42, worked for eight years in Saudi Arabia and three in Dubai before getting married. Now, to try his luck in Malaysia, he left his wife and three children near Sylhet, Bangladesh.

“The agent took my money. They tricked me. I’m ready to go home to see my wife and children. I really learned my lesson about trying to go the illegal way,” he said, showing scars on his back that came from being beaten on the boat.

The agent promised him a four-day journey to Malaysia. But after almost two months at sea, he ended up in Aceh instead.

Phoning home at gunpoint

Some of the migrants did not travel voluntarily. Some said they had been kidnapped, or extorted.

Muhammad Malik, 45, a farmer from inland Bangladesh, had struggled to support his family by growing rice on 30 square meters (323 square feet) of land.

In early February, he met a man to whom he complained about how hard it was to make money in Bangladesh. The man said he had a friend who could take Malik to Malaysia.

The idea of making more money tempted Malik. Before he got married 15 years ago, he was a construction worker in Malaysia for eight years.

Malik was taken to a warehouse near the coast. There he found 14 other migrants who had also been promised work in Malaysia. They were forced onto a small boat and, two hours later, transferred to a big one on the open sea.

A week before reaching Indonesian waters, the boat captain forced Malik to phone his wife, Runa Beghum. At gunpoint, the captain ordered Malik to tell his wife to transfer U.S. $3,000.

“Crying, I told my wife they were going to kill me. ‘If you love me, if you want to see me again, quickly sell the two oxen we own. If it’s not enough, hurry and borrow the rest from relatives,’” Malik recounted.

Two days later, his wife’s brother wired the money to the account number given by the smuggler.

Absaruddin , 14, arrived in Kuala Langsa, Aceh, after being rescued by fishermen on May 15.

A student at a madrassa in Teknaf, Bangladesh, he was kidnapped by some men when he and three friends were playing. The kidnappers threatened to kill them if they resisted.

“They tied us with rope. They hit us. Then they took us out in a small boat. When we got onto a big boat in the middle of the sea, that’s when I saw hundreds of Rohingya and Bangladeshi people,” he said from his shelter in Kuala Langsa.

Absaruddin said two of his friends died when a fight broke out on board between Bangladesh and Rohingya over scant food supplies.

“Their corpses were thrown in the water. A lot of people died in that fight,” he said.

Absaruddin wants to go home to see his parents and go back to school.

“I really miss my mother. Since being kidnapped, I haven’t spoken to her,” he said.

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