Anti-Rohingya protesters storm Indonesia refugee shelter demanding deportation

A large crowd of Indonesian students stormed a convention center housing hundreds of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in the city of Banda Aceh on Wednesday, demanding they be deported, Reuters footage showed.

A city police spokesperson in Banda Aceh did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Footage showed the students, many wearing green jackets, run into the building’s large basement space, where crowds of Rohingya men, women and children were seated on the floor and crying in fear. The Rohingya were then led out by authorities, some carrying their belongings in plastic sacks, and taken to trucks to transport them to alternative shelter, as the protesters looked on.

Rohingya refugees have experienced increasing hostility and rejection in Indonesia as locals grow frustrated at the numbers of boats arriving with the ethnic minority, who face persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has blamed the recent surge in arrivals on human trafficking, and has promised to work with international organizations to offer temporary shelter.

Arrivals tend to spike between November and April, when the seas are calmer, with Rohingya taking boats to neighboring Thailand and Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia.

Wariza Anis Munandar, a 23-year-old student in Banda Aceh speaking at an earlier protest rally in the city on Wednesday called for the deportation of the Rohingya while another student, 20-year-old Della Masrida, said “they came here uninvited, they feel like it is their country.”

A UNHCR Indonesia spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s incident.

UNCHR said earlier this month the agency was “alarmed” by the reports of rejection in Indonesia.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Convention on Refugees but has a history of taking in refugees if they arrive.

For years, Rohingya have left Myanmar, where they are generally regarded as foreign interlopers from South Asia, denied citizenship and subjected to abuse.

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