Humanity is what we need.
According to Reuters, Indonesian fishermen rescued nearly 100 Rohingya refugees, including 79 women and children, in Aceh province after officials said they were planning to push them back out to sea.
Yesterday, a boat carrying 94 Rohingya refugees disembarked in North Aceh after locals protested and urged authorities to bring them to shore. A day earlier, the boat was spotted in Seunuddon Beach, North Aceh, by local fishermen who then reported it to the authorities.
Authorities in Aceh confirmed that the refugees had been taken ashore by fishermen and provided temporary housing.
When officials had said they planned to push them back out to sea with a new boat, gasoline and food – the fishermen held a protest and soon after, the authorities called off their initial intention.
“If the government is incapable, us the community will help them, because we are human beings and they (the Rohingya refugees) are human too and we have a heart,” local fisherman, Syaiful Amri, told Reuters.
“It is nothing more than a sense of humanity and part of our tradition in the north Aceh fishermen community. We hope that the refugees will be looked after in our village,” said another local fisherman, Hamdani Yacob.
Countries around Southeast Asia have grown increasingly reluctant to accept refugee boats as we battle the novel coronavirus, but the Acehnese fishermen said that rescuing the Rohingya was a moral duty.
On the other hand, Muslim-majority Malaysia has long been a favoured destination for Rohingya seeking a better life after fleeing a 2017 military-led crackdown in Myanmar and refugee camps in Bangladesh. Our country, however, does not recognise refugee status and recently turned away boats while detaining hundreds of Rohingyas who made it here.
There has been a significant divide in the way Malaysians approach the #MigranJugaManusia movement that was instigated due to the migration of Rohingya to Malaysia. Many Malaysians have expressed vitriol towards refugees who have been accused of spreading the coronavirus and taking up state funds.
Perhaps Malaysians can learn to be more empathetic in times when our humanity is truly challenged.
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