Humanitarian Emergencies, Refugee and Asylum Issues, Rohingya Crisis

Jakarta – The UN Migration Agency has stepped in to provide humanitarian assistance to 84 ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar who have arrived by boat in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province, this month. IOM’s Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism (MEFM) has donated USD 100,000 to help the migrants, who include over 40 children.

There are fears that continuing ethnic tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where the Rohingya are not recognized as Myanmar citizens, and the hardships experienced by over 700,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017, could result in others paying smugglers to transport them to Malaysia. Tens of thousands of undocumented Rohingya are currently living in Malaysia.

“Our in-depth interviews with the migrants have revealed a high level of vulnerability particularly among the many unaccompanied minors on the boats, who could be at risk of being exploited by human traffickers,” said IOM Indonesia deputy chief of mission George Gigauri. “We’ve assessed more than two thirds of the people on those vessels as extremely vulnerable.”

Since 2009, IOM has assisted more than 1,740 Rohingya whose vessels have arrived in Indonesia on nine previous occasions. In May 2015, close to 1,000 Rohingya and 820 Bangladeshi nationals were admitted to Indonesia on humanitarian grounds after spending many weeks on the Andaman sea.

The latest response began when five critically ill men aboard a fishing boat were rescued by Acehnese fishermen on April 1. Their vessel departed Myanmar with 15 passengers. Tragically, two died during the six weeks that the boat was adrift. The fate of seven men and a young boy who attempted to swim to shore clinging to empty water bottles is not yet known.

On April 20, a second vessel carrying 79 people arrived in Aceh.

In both cases IOM has provided translators to assist the government of Indonesia and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with their interviews, facilitated access to emergency medical assistance and provided food and water, and hygiene trainings.

Tomorrow, IOM will begin trainings for local government and NGO partners in Aceh on how best to meet the needs of the migrants.

The new funding will allow IOM Indonesia to deliver psycho-social assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities and other initiatives to support the physical and
mental wellbeing of the migrants, many of whom are exhibiting symptoms of stress and anxiety.

The MEFM was established to allow for rapid emergency response in the critical period between the occurrence of an emergency and the point when donor countries provide funding.
For further information, please contact Paul Dillon at IOM Indonesia, Tel: +62 811 155 2776, Email: