Indonesia should ensure that nearly 300 Rohingya migrants who landed in Aceh province this week are given adequate health care and aid, Amnesty International said Friday, as officials announced three of the new arrivals had died after suffering lung infections.
The officials confirmed two women and a man had died in the town of Lhokseumawe since local fishermen helped them come ashore on Monday.
“The government must move more quickly to ensure that the refugees’ health care needs are met,” Usman Hamid, Amnesty International director in Indonesia, told BenarNews.
Usman said his group sent a letter to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urging him to provide more support to the local government to make sure that the minority Muslim refugees’ basic needs are met in line with international human rights standards.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi this week said the government would ensure that the Rohingya arrivals got the help they need including health care while their status as refugees was being verified by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.
Achsanul Habib, director of human rights and humanitarian affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the local government was caring for the Rohingya.
“As far as I know, everything is being handled by the task force in Lhokseumawe,” Achsanul told BenarNews.
Early Friday, Senuwara Begum, 19, died while being treated for a lung infection at the state-run hospital in the town of Lhokseumawe, said Marzuki, spokesman for a local task force tasked with aiding the refugees. Two other Rohingya – aged 22 and 21 – died on Tuesday and Thursday after suffering from similar complaints, officials said.
Rapid COVID-19 tests for the 181 women, 102 men and 14 children who arrived on Monday were all negative, Marzuki said, adding that a swab sample had been taken from the woman who died Friday in order to perform a more accurate test. The Rohingya group was the largest to arrive in Indonesia since 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Meanwhile, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), a Jakarta-based think tank, issued a report on the Rohingya in Aceh calling on Jokowi to show leadership by revising a presidential decree on refugees. The report filed on Wednesday called on the administration to take some of the financial burden off local governments and provide more active support.
“The Acehnese have been wonderfully supportive of the refugees, but this is a problem that can’t be solved by a sympathetic local community," IPAC researcher Deka Anwar said in a news release issued with the report.
“We need a collective regional response, with less focus on repatriation when repatriation is not a viable alternative, more willingness to work out regional resettlement options and more prosecutions of anyone found to be profiting from smuggling networks,” he said.
Following their rescue, some of the Rohingya told U.N. officials they agreed to pay thousands of dollars to smugglers to reach Malaysia and ended up spending more than half a year at sea, adding at least 30 people had died.
The refugees were being sheltered in the same building that housed the 99 Rohingya who were rescued from another boat in June. Officials have said they believe the two groups were linked.
“We are extremely concerned about the health of the refugees who arrived earlier this week in poor condition,” Mitra Suryono, UNHCR spokeswoman in Indonesia, told BenarNews.
“The authorities are running additional health screenings in the field and UNHCR is trying to make sure that refugees can get what they need, including nutrition,” she said.
During an Association of Southeast Asian Nations ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Retno urged member countries to address the plight of the Rohingya.
“We know that we need to work together and this cooperation, among others, is to address transnational crimes including the issue of people smuggling and trafficking in persons,” Retno said.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a prolonged conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, home to the Rohingya, “jeopardizes the security and the stability of the ASEAN region.”
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya live in Rakhine under the “threat of genocide” according to a United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission report from September 2019.
Ahmad Syamsudin in Jakarta contributed to this report.