UNHCR calls for urgent action after mobs attempt to evict Rohingyas in Banda Aceh

BANGKOK: The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Refugee Agency, calls on local law enforcement authorities for urgent action to ensure protection of Rohingyas in the wake of attempts to evict them from shelters in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

In a statement, UNHCR said it is deeply disturbed to see a mob storming a site sheltering vulnerable refugee families, the majority being children and women and demanding that they be deported before forcibly taking them to a different location.

"UNHCR remains deeply worried about the safety of refugees and calls on local law enforcement authorities for urgent action to ensure protection of all desperate individuals and humanitarian staff.

"The attack on refugees is not an isolated act but the result of a coordinated online campaign of misinformation, disinformation and hate speech against refugees and an attempt to malign Indonesia's efforts to save desperate lives in distress at sea," it said.

On Wednesday, hundreds of youngsters believed to be the students of higher education institutions stormed a building basement where refugees were sheltered.

The mob broke a police cordon and forcibly put 137 refugees on two trucks, and moved them to another location in Banda Aceh. The incident has left refugees shocked and traumatised.

UNHCR is also alerting the public to be aware of the coordinated and well-choreographed online campaign on social media platforms, attacking authorities, local communities, refugees and humanitarian workers alike, inciting hate and putting lives in danger.

"UNHCR appeals to the public in Indonesia to cross-check information posted online, much of it is false or twisted, with AI generated images and hate speech being sent from bot accounts," the statement said.

The UNHCR reminded everyone that desperate refugee children, women and men seeking shelter in Indonesia are victims of persecution and conflict, and are survivors of deadly sea journeys.

It said Indonesia – with its longstanding humanitarian tradition – has helped save these desperate people who would have otherwise died at the sea – like hundreds of others. - BERNAMA

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