Restless Beings has obtained documentation from State Government meetings in Aceh and Sumatra regions of Indonesia regarding the disappearance of 31 Rohingya women and children since July 25th 2015. The refugees had escaped the camps as they were being relocated by IOM to another camp as a result of a report of sexual harassment in the female camp the day before.
The IOM (Institute of Migration) have been given directive by the Jakarta Indonesia State Government to oversee the camp management in Indonesia. A series of serious mistakes have led to this latest distressing report. Initially the IOM decided to split the Rohingya males and females into separate camps which clearly put the female camp under immediate threat from local opportunists. Further, due to a complete mismanagement, the camps in Langsa, Aceh have been under staffed and even without security for a large part of July. Through our local partners, we have now through donations from supporters, managed to ensure that there is round the clock security personnel at all camps.
On July 24th 2015, there was a report of sexual harassment at the females camp in Langsa. IOM responded by deciding to relocate all female refugees to another location. Clearly the easier solution would have been to place security staff at the camps to ensure no repeat would occur. Despite this, IOM went ahead with its decision to move the refugees on, but this was conducted unbelievably at 23.00 on July 25th and without consultation or explanation to the refugees of what was happening. Fearing that they were being deported, many refugees attempted to flee. From the documentation of the case report it appears that this was instigated from corrupt field agents working surreptitiously with IOM as there was transportation awaiting those who tried to escape. This has occurred sporadically in other camps where Rohingya refugees attempted to leave camps for Malaysia or to be repatriated with other family members in other areas. However, the occurrences of 25th July appear to be far better co-ordinated.
The majority of those who have been smuggled are believed to be in Medan either awaiting traffickers to move them onto Malaysia or to help them move to other camps in Indonesia. Lewd and inappropriate comments made by those rogue officials working within IOM and the co-ordinated nature of the unusual late night relocation, however, suggest that a more likely outcome is that the 31 women and children who are still missing have been pushed into an underworld of forced prostitution.
Local state governance seem to be weary of the IOM’s misgivings and have attempted to raise their concerns but to little avail. It is imperative that such mistakes are avoided at all costs in the future and we strongly urge multi-agency approaches where long term strategies and a needs-based approach is used for this highly sensitive and unfortunate plight of the Rohingya refugees in Indonesia. Directors Mabrur Ahmed and Rahima Begum will be travelling to Indonesia in late August to initiate long term development of the refugee camps with local partners. All of the government meeting minutes have been passed on to world media outlets and we hope that through investigative journalism, the missing women and children can be found and rescued. We await further news and information as this situation unfolds.