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Cablegate: Rohingya Moved From Aceh to Medan, Await Next Steps

VZCZCXRO2584
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #2092/01 3560936
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 220936Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4185
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS COLL
RUEHHE/AMEMBASSY HELSINKI 0967
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 3695
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 3493
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM 2116
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 JAKARTA 002092

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/MTS, INR/EAP, PRM/ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF SOCI ID
SUBJECT: ROHINGYA MOVED FROM ACEH TO MEDAN, AWAIT NEXT STEPS

REF A) JAKARTA 39 B) JAKARTA 205

1. (SBU) Summary. Indonesian authorities transferred 190 Rohingya
to Medan from Aceh on December 17, where many had spent nearly a
year in one of two camps located in East Aceh and on Wei Island. The
arrival of the Rohingya was rejected by communities at two original
sites intended for their relocation, necessitating the use of a
previously-identified backup site. All of the Rohingya are healthy
and unharmed, and IOM has provided for all of their immediate needs.
UNHCR plans to inform the Rohingya of their status determinations in
the near future. Both IOM and UNHCR believe the notification process
has the potential to create tensions. End Summary.
Background
----------
2. (SBU) A total of 391 Rohingya (Ref A and B) arrived in two
groups between January and February, 2009; the first on Wei Island
on January 8 and the second in East Aceh on February 3. The 193
Rohingya on Wei Island have been housed on an Indonesian naval base
since their arrival, assisted by local government and Indonesian Red
Cross assistance. 177 Rohingya remained at the Wei Island naval base
for transfer to Medan on December 17. The vast majority of the 198
Rohingya who originally arrived in East Aceh on February 3 have
absconded from a local government camp run in coordination with IOM
and PMI over the past 5 months, only 13 remaining at the time of
their transfer to Medan December 17.

Transfer Process to Medan
-------------------------
3. (SBU) IOM Officials discussed the preparations for transfer of
the 190 remaining Rohingya to Medan on December 17 and their chaotic
arrival in the early hours of December 18 at a housing complex in
Medan where arrangements had been made for them to stay. Initial
notice for the move came to IOM from Indonesian immigration
officials in early December via a letter to Immigration from the
Department of Foreign Affairs (DEPLU). DEPLU had been reluctant for
some time to follow IOM's group housing solution because of concerns
over community reaction in Medan, where existing immigration
detention centers are already overfilled with South Asian migrants.


4. (SBU) Large buses were rented for the transfer by IOM and the
group home sites identified, but according to IOM little in the way
of official instructions were passed to Medan-based immigration or
police officials over the past two weeks in order to prepare for the
Rohingya's arrival. As a result, IOM staff said a large group of
locals (egged on by journalists) confronted them as they attempted
to depart the group homes following the transfer of the Rohingyas
during the early hours of December 18. The locals demanded tighter
security at the site and threatened violence.

5. (SBU) After long discussions between locals, police, immigration
authorities, and IOM the decision was made to transfer the Rohingya
to a back-up location (a vacated education and training center) at
around 3AM on December 18. The transfer was completed over several
hours and 182 of 190 Rohingya are, as of December 22, located in a
single compound with a 70-room main building. The remaining 8 are
nearby in a separate location as space preparations are made to
bring them all together on the training center compound shortly.

Current Arrangements Appropriate
--------------------------------
6. (U) IOM has provided for 4-person bunk bed arrangements with
table and fan in 48 of the rooms at the vacated training center,
each room including its own bathroom. Bedding, food, plentiful
access to water for washing and drinking, and back-up generator
power are all up and running. Many of the Rohingya observed by
Consulate Medan Staff were active playing badminton or talking, and
a TV room and common area have already been provided by IOM as well.
A large common eating area is also ready, and preparations are being
made to issue vouchers to the Rohingya so that they can shop at the
local Carrefour Supermarket for their food needs and cook for
themselves. IOM has provided catered meals to all the Rohingya since
their December 17 arrival.

7. (SBU) Indonesian immigration and police authorities appear to
have received word that their role is to monitor the site rather
than control the comings and goings of the residents, and while a
few police were evident they made no attempt to control the
movements of the Rohingya. Immigration officials that happened to
arrive at the same time of the Consulate's visit to the site

JAKARTA 00002092 002 OF 002


expressed satisfaction at the arrangement and are ready for next
steps as determined by DEPLU regarding UNHCR's access to the
Rohingya to give status notifications. IOM staff told Consulate
Medan that UNHCR had been in touch with them about giving status
determinations to the Rohingya as early as December 21 but were
holding off as per IOM's request.
IOM Concerns on Bangladeshi Rohingya
------------------------------------
8. (SBU) IOM's translator who has worked closest with the Rohingya
stated to Consulate Medan staff that the 57 Bangladeshi nationals
among the 190 Rohingya in Medan had previously filled out
documentation allowing for them to be repatriated to their country
of citizenship. However, given the long amount of time that has
passed most of this group now feels they have nothing left to go
back to and has expressed their desire to stay in Indonesia or move
on to Malaysia via any means available. The IOM translator said that
they could react in an unpredictable manner and possibly become very
upset should UNHCR inform them that their requests have been
rejected and Indonesian immigration officials initiate a process for
their return to Bangladesh.

9. (SBU) IOM senior staff have met with law enforcement officials
in Medan on several occasions and have good working contacts with
Indonesian immigration and police authorities. They are aware of the
need to provide adequate oversight and security for the site,
including for potential problems during any UNHCR status
determination meetings at the site. Police and immigration officials
are aware of their role and the limits of their authority. IOM
indicated to Consulate Medan staff on December 22 that they would
work closely with police to ensure any security issues arising from
UNHCR status notifications were dealt with appropriately both in
order to protect the Rohingya and ensure the safety of the local IOM
and UNHCR staff working at the site.

10. (SBU) While the process has been slow and lines of authority
often blurred, the Government of Indonesia has handled the Rohingya
issue with great humanitarian concern and ultimately agreed to move
the populations to Medan as it became clear that other viable
options did not exist.
OSIUS

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