Hundreds of students from the Aceh province in western Indonesia on Wednesday have invaded a shelter temporarily housing more than a hundred Rohingya refugees.
AFP say they were then forced to flee.This is the latest incident linked to the hostility of the local population towards these refugees, members of the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar (otherwise known as Burma).
Since mid-November, more than 1,500 Rohingya refugees have been forced to flee their temporary camps in Bangladesh to reach the province of Aceh by sea, usually using makeshift boats.
It’s the largest movement of Rohingya migration to Indonesia since 2015, according to the United Nations.
After their dangerous crossings, these refugees face a new obstacle: hostility towards them from the local population.
On Wednesday, the students entered a government building where 137 Rohingya refugees were hosted in Banda Aceh to demand their transfer to a local immigration office with a view to their deportation.
Shouting “put them out” and “no Rohingya in Aceh”, the students kicked the refugees’ belongings, according to footage filmed on site.
The demonstrators also came to blows with the police who protected the frightened refugees before allowing the students to take them away.
The students burned tires and brought in trucks to take away the Rohingya but, instead, the police helped take them to another nearby government site.
“We demonstrated because we do not agree with the Rohingya continuing to arrive,” Kholilullah, a 23-year-old student who goes by only one name like many Indonesians, told AFP.
In Aceh province, many residents, often remembering the decades of conflict between local separatists and the Indonesian army until the early 2000s, sympathise with their co-religionists.
Others, though, accuse the Rohingya of taking already scarce resources and sometimes fighting with the local population.
Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and says it is not obliged to take in these refugees.