Jakarta, Indonesia (BBN)-More than 700 Bangladeshis who arrived in Indonesia by boat will be sent back to their country having been deemed economic migrants.
Approximately 17,000 people have made the dangerous journey from Bangladesh and Myanmar over the past two weeks, and after a meeting with the UN refugee agency and a number of other government and non-government groups, the country’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency said 720 would be returned to their country, reports ABC News.
The Agency’s Sutopo Purwo Negroho said the process of repatriation would be undertaken “step by step”.
“As many as 720 people will be repatriated to Bangladesh,” he said.
“[The] Bangladeshi ambassador had visited north Aceh and intended to repatriate the refugees step by step.
“The funds for the repatriation are coming from the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration.
“Starting next week, [they] will be moved to Medan before [being] repatriated to Bangladesh. It is expected to be finished within a year.”
The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees, a Muslim ethnic minority group rendered stateless in their homeland and detained in transit nations, is desperately bleak.
More than 1,000 other people have been deemed to be Rohingya refugees from the western Rakhine state in Myanmar, where they are not recognised as citizens.
The Rohingya face daily discrimination and a raft of restrictions.
Many live in displacement camps after scores were killed in 2012 as violence flared between the community and local Buddhists — an event that caused a spike in people trying to flee on boats.
While not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, Indonesia’s president has the power to grant asylum under Regulation 37.
Mr Negroho said a process of resettlement and “social protection” had started to take care of the Rohingyas.
“[The] Indonesian government will keep trying to help the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis in Aceh,” he said.
“Rohingya refugees are coming from a state in Myanmar, [and] fled the country because of security reasons.”
The decision comes after Myanmar announced that over 200 Bangladeshi men rescued from boats would be returned to their home country.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis has spoken of his concern over Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in South-East Asia.
Addressing crowds at St Peter’s Square on Sunday, the pontiff encouraged the international community to give them humanitarian assistance.