"These refugees have been stranded in the ocean for weeks. They certainly need help to meet their basic requirements," SUAKA Chairperson, Rizka Argadianti Rachmah, noted in a statement here on Thursday.
Rachmah emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic must not be used as a pretext by the Aceh and central governments to turn back Rohingya refugees.
"Indonesia too is bound by an international principle of not rejecting or turning back people seeking protection. The Indonesian government must not do that," she reiterated.
It is unacceptable to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a justification to turn back these refugees, as they have been adrift in the waters without contact with anyone for weeks, the NGO pointed out.
"The government has sufficient equipment to test them, and the community is also ready to welcome these refugees," Rima Shah Putra, director of the Aceh-based Geutanyoe Indonesia Foundation, stated.
Since the Rohingya refugee boat was spotted in Aceh’s waters, the local community began making preparations in the form of food to offer to the Rohingya refugees on the mainland.
The people of Aceh would be disenchanted if assistance were not offered to the refugees, she stated.
Rachmah noted that the Aceh government and people had earlier helped thousands of Rohingya refugees in 2015.
"In this case, humanity must take precedence. We also know that Indonesia is based on a just and civilized humanity," she affirmed.
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