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Hundreds of college students in Aceh protest against Rohingya refugees

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Jakarta, IO – Hundreds of students held a demonstration rejecting the Rohingya refugees sheltered at the Bale Meuseuraya Aceh (BMA) building, Wednesday (27/12).

They stormed the building and forcibly transported the immigrants from the temporary shelter to the Aceh Law and Human Rights Ministry office, per CNN Indonesia, Thu (28/12).

In the beginning, the crowd only gave speeches asking the refugees to leave. However, the situation became heated when the field coordinator negotiated with the officers.

The crowd behind them immediately ran towards the site while throwing water bottles at women and children and kicking things around them.

Khalis, one of the protesters, said they rejected the refugees because of they have badly behaved and demanded that they returned to their country.

“We should support the people who want to prevent a wider conflict between the people and the Rohingya refugees,” said Khalis.

Khalis explained that the people of Aceh had previously graciously accepted refugees for humanitarian reasons. However, recently these ethnic groups no longer come as refugees, but instead as economic migrants.

This action also triggered a response from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UN agency that deals with refugees said that this incident had left Rohingya refugees traumatized and afraid. It called on local law enforcement officials to take immediate action to ensure their safety, per Liputan6.

UNHCR is of the view that the action carried out by the students was the result of misperceptions that had been circulating wildly on social media. They reminded that the refugees who have been seeking protection in Indonesia are victims of persecution and conflict.

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UNHCR also said that the refugees, consisting of children, women and men, were survivors who had gone through a dangerous seaborne journey. “UNHCR urges the public in Indonesia to double-check information uploaded online, much of which is fake or manipulated, with AI-generated images and hate speech sent from bot accounts.”

Currently, there are more than 1,600 Rohingya refugees housed in a number of shelters in Aceh. The refugee rejection movement began to spread since the refugees’ landings in November. (un)

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