Langsa Rohingya Refugee Camp Visits by Restless Beings Directors

In the Langsa area of Aceh province in Indonesia, there are currently three main temporary camps for Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants.  Currently the camps are being administered by IOM (International Organisation for Migration).

In Kuala Langsa there are two sections to the camp, one for Rohingya males and one for Bangladeshi migrant males. In total this camp holds 173 people, 78 Bangladeshi migrants and 95 Rohingya male refugees. One of the biggest issues for this camp has been the access to clean water and since July, Restless Beings through our local partner Yayasan Geutanyoe have been able to provide drinking water for all camp dwellers.

At the beginning of the mass migration there was almost 400 Bangladeshi migrants in Kuala Langsa and over the past 4 months, many have been repatriated back to Bangladesh. One of the big concerns which the migrants discussed with Mabrur and Rahima was that the location of their identification documents was not known. Many felt that as a result they were not being repatriated. Whilst still in Indonesia, Restless Beings will carry out some advocacy work and work with IOM and the Bangladesh Embassy to try to locate their documents and give some indication to the camp dwellers of when they will return back to Bangladesh.

On the other side of the camp, the Rohingya males told us distressing memories of their time at sea when traffickers would become very violent and even at times would murder the refugees as a means of instilling fear into remaining Rohingya refugees including horrifying reports of how traffickers would cut open the torso of deceased migrants so that dead bodies would not float at sea.

A short drive from this camp is Lhok Bani, a camp where 97 Rohingya women currently are living. IOM decided to move the women of the Kuala Langsa camp to Lhok Bani in July as a result of reports of sexual harassment broke out. As mentioned in previous articles, the decision by IOM to move the women at 11pm in the night caused huge distress and 31 women fled as they thought they were being trafficked once again. Their whereabouts are still not known fully although we have received some reports that they are in Medan, Indonesia. Further to this, IOM had not been paying security staff and in July, existing security staff walked out leaving the camp exposed to traffickers and smugglers. Recognizing the major danger Restless Beings again intervened and provided immediate security for the women’s camp through donations raised over the summer.

The women in the camp seemed generally in better spirits than their male counterparts in Kuala Langsa, although an awful stench of waste and garbage was an indication of how unsuitable the camp is to hold refugees for an extended period of time. Many of the toilet units are overflowing with waste and unusable whilst garbage is collected only once in 3 days in relatively cramped camp. The women stay across 3 rooms each room hosting 30 or so. There is no private space and women are currently sleeping on jute carpets. The children of the camp have access to some very basic play and education facilities.

Long term there is a plan to build a permanent shelter camp for the Kuala Langsa and Lhok Bani refugees and local government have stated that this will be opened in late October.  Lessons must be learned from the mishandling by IOM and local government if the stress and tension is to be minimized for the refugees. Restless Beings through our local partner team will continue advocating better administration through camp co-ordination meetings held weekly.

The final stop for Directors Mabrur Ahmed and Rahima Begum on Saturday 22nd August 2015 was in Bayeun, East Aceh camp. This is quite a large camp where Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingya refugees (male and female) are staying together. 409 are currently staying in the Bayeun camp.

Considering the vast amounts of money raised by many international and UK charities, the camp looks in a very poor condition with housing all needing replacement. There is quite poor sanitation at the camps and once again garbage is not being cleaned out regularly. This has been the site for many ‘money shots’ for large NGO’s who have, in accordance with the refugees, come along taken many pictures of aid distribution but not followed this up with any sort of long term plan. In fact of all the camps, the people at Bayeun seemed to be most disenfranchised often seen rejecting foreign visitors.

At this stage discussions are ongoing for a long term permamanent shelter like the one due to be opened in Langsa for the Bayeun camp. It is estimated that to provide proper housing and facilities for the Bayeun, East Aceh camp will cost in the region of £250,000. Through international support, it is hoped that Restless Beings will be able to facilitate this camp which will be able to hold upto 5,000 refugees.

Our local partners informed us how most of the refugees were unable to eat the food being distributed as it was very bland and contained no usual spice and chillies that the Rohingya and Bangladeshi are used to. Head lice is a widespread problem and basic necessities like hair oil are currently not being provided. Along with tackling the hygiene issue if waste disposal, Restless Beings will on Monday 24th August 2015 distribute fruit, chilies, coconut hair oil and lice shampoo for all refugees in the Langsa region to provide some basic level of comfort. 

 

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