Indonesia to offer three proposals to address Rohingya crisis

Indonesia to offer three proposals to address Rohingya crisis

Following an influx of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said that Indonesia would propose three points to solve the migrant issue during a meeting with her Thailand and Malaysia counterparts on Wednesday.

The three proposals are aimed at addressing the root causes of an influx of irregular migrants to the Southeast Asia region, cooperating with countries of origin, transit countries and destination countries, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and addressing the aspect of human trafficking.

"I underline that the issue of irregular migrants is not merely the problem of one or two nations. This is a regional problem and it happens in other places - it is an international problem," Retno told reporters after a Cabinet meeting at the State Palace on Tuesday.

According to Retno, Indonesia has provided shelter, food and medicine for 1,346 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who entered Indonesian territory in three batches. As of March this year, nearly 12,000 migrants were in Indonesia awaiting verification or resettlement in other countries, she said.

"That's Indonesia's stance. And Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. Indonesia has gone the extra mile [in providing support to the migrants]," she added.

"We can only address those who have come into our territory."

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said although the government was waiting for the result of Retno's meeting with her counterparts, the government would "handle well those who are already here".

The 1,346 Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants are waiting for verification from the UNHCR and IOM to determine whether they are entitled to refugee status or are categorized as economic migrants. Should they be proven to be the latter, they will face repatriation.

To further strengthen Indonesia's resolve in addressing the irregular movement of migrants, Minister Retno said that a presidential regulation (Perpres) governing the issue of migrants was in the works and was in its finalization stage.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir denied allegations that the government was being pressured to set up temporary shelters for the migrants, arguing that the international community only requested that "the matter be dealt with wisely".

Arrmanatha said the ministry would continue to provide shelter, food and other aid to asylum seekers who ventured into Indonesian territory, as long as it was in line with the government's principles.

"We'll continue to coordinate with the UN commission in charge of these issues. If it turns out that [the Rohingya are illegal migrants, they will be repatriated], but if not, the UNHCR will process them further."

The Rohingya crisis has become one of the most exposed humanitarian issues in recent history, due to Myanmar's reluctance to grant the ethnic group citizenship despite long-standing historical coexistence.

In June and October 2012, an ethnically driven conflict broke out in Rakhine, Myanmar, in which tens of thousands of ethnic Rohingyas were forced out of their homes. The conflict resulted in deaths numbering in the hundreds of thousands and displaced around 140,000 people from the minority group.

Minister Retno is slated to attend a meeting of foreign ministers in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Wednesday, with another meeting for senior ministerial officials slated for the end of the month in Thailand. Both meetings will focus on finding solutions to the irregular movement of migrants in the region.


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