Indonesia president suspects human trafficking behind increased Rohingya arrivals

Indonesia vividly suspects human trafficking is the reason of the latest rise in arrivals of Rohingya Muslims on its territory, its president said on Dec 8, pledging to work with international groups to handle the problem. Exceeding than 1,200 Rohingya people, a persecuted minority from Myanmar, have landed ashore in Indonesia since November, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) in Indonesia, leading to serious worries among local communities about the scale of the exodus this year.

For years several Rohingya have embarked on dangerous journeys on rickety boats, wishing to reach neighbouring Thailand and Bangladesh or further afield Malaysia and Indonesia, both Muslim majority nations. They take to the sea mostly between November and April when seas are calmer. Indonesia has long been a secure haven for Rohingya, but the high volume of arrivals in past weeks has seen a rise in pessimistic sentiment on social media and some pushback from people in Aceh, the westernmost area where most landings happen.

“There is a serious suspicion that human trafficking networks are included … Indonesia will take firm action in opposition to them,” President Joko Widodo said in a live streamed video, without talking much about it. Indonesia will also give temporary humanitarian aid to the Rohingya but keep prioritising local residents, he said. A demonstration happened at a Rohingya shelter in Sabang in Aceh on Dec 7, with local people having the wish to have their relocation elsewhere soon, according to local media, which revealed video footage of the protest.