Several boats full of about 500 Rohingya refugees made it to the western Indonesia shore in the northern province of Aceh this week after fleeing from Myanmar. Myanmar is mostly a Buddhist country that doesn’t recognize the Rohingya ethnicity, which is a small minority of Muslims in the country and they have been subject to persecution.
The Rohingya refugees travel in the small boats to try to get away from the unrest in the country, as the government considers them as being illegal immigrants and calls them “Bengalis” because they say they are from Bangladesh. Due to this fact, the Rohingya refugees are not allowed to become citizens and aren’t allowed to have even the basic rights of most people living in that area of the world.
These hundreds who reached the Indonesian shore this week are trying to travel to Malaysia, where there are a large amount of Rohingya people, but were unable to make it that far in their small boats. According to officials from the International Organization for Migration in Jakarta, many on board the small boats were in need of medical care and one craft had run out of gas. Smugglers who were bringing them from the Myanmar unrest had abandoned the Rohingya refugees to their fate.
Rohingya Refugees Face Violence, Unrest in Their Country
The Rohingya refugees are victimized by the extreme Buddhists in Myanmar and political unrest has resulted in the killing of hundreds and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others in the past few years, so they travel to other countries to get away from the turmoil.
In 2014, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution advising the Myanmar government to allow the Rohingya refugees to have equal rights, full citizenship, free movement, and to be self-identified as being Rohingya Muslim in an effort to try to solve the unrest and violence. This is supposed to be voted on later this year.
Rohingya Refugees Must Prove Themselves to Be Recognized
A 1982 law in Burma states that in order to be officially recognized as a minority, a group has to be able to show that their ancestors were living in Burma prior to 1823, which is when the British overran Rakhine. Much of the Rohingya people state that this fact is true and that their ancestors made travel to Burma many generations ago, however, they have no proper documentation to prove their claims.
The attacks on this religious minority group have caused many more Rohingya refugees to leave and try to find help elsewhere, with hundreds of thousands of them fleeing to safer areas. Many first end up in Thailand, and then may go on to other countries, and some end up as trafficking victims, according to released trafficking in persons reports.
The government is attempting to crack down on the smugglers to stop this tragic issue, but for now, they must also concentrate on giving the Rohingya refugees immediate assistance, and medical help they require by helping people like these most recent arrivals.