Refugees who washed ashore during people smuggling crisis housed at center with rooms for families, playground for children and mosque
By Ainur Rohmah
Lonzanabibi, an 8-year-old Rohingya girl who washed up on Indonesia's coast amid Southeast Asia's recent boat people crisis, jumped onto a playground immediately after arriving at a new shelter complex Thursday.
The burning sun did not deter her or other Rohingya children from exploring the play area – a new experience for them after their stay at refugee camps – as their laughter rang though the compound in Aceh province, where they will be accommodated in coming months.
Around 330 Rohingya were moved Thursday to the Integrated Community Shelter, built by Jakarta-based organization Aksi Cepat Tanggap (Fast Action Response) with Rp 6 billion ($420,000) in funding from various parties, both inside and outside of the country.
The complex -- which stands on an area of 5 hectares -- has 120 rooms, with each Rohingya family receiving their own while single refugees are placed into two barracks - one for men and one for women.
While settling in Thursday, the adults could be seen moving household items and bags of clothes, the mothers arranging the rooms shared by their families.
Surakhatu, a 28-year-old mother-of-three, told Anadolu Agency that after spending several months at sea before arriving in Aceh in early May, the shelter was like a new home.
"I am delighted to have a new home. My kids were also happy," she said, her face lighting up.
Surakhatu was forced to leave Myanmar like hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya who have been fleeing the majority Buddhist country since 2012 in fear of violence that some human rights groups consider to be state-sponsored.
After arriving in Indonesia following months on a crammed boat, she and hundreds of others had been accommodated at a fishing complex in crowded and unsanitary conditions, before being moved to a job training center while the shelter was under construction.
Dicky Saputra, National Committee of Solidarity for the Rohingya coordinator, told Anadolu Agency on Thursday that the volunteers at the new complex "are very happy to see the faces of the refugees, especially the children who seem happy when entering our shelter fence."
"They like having a new spirit. All look cheerful," he said.
He added that before the transfer, they had communicated with the refugees on how to maintain order and security at the shelter.
"We ask them to keep the clean environment. Including how they have to care for the garden and trees in the shelter," he said.
The complex – completed within a month and divided into 15 blocks -- is equipped with 46 bathrooms, two teaching rooms, a health clinic, a children's playground, a park and a mosque.
"The shelter is designed with a variety of facilities above [the quality of an] average refugee camp," he said.
Laila Khalidah, one of the volunteers, admitted that she was touched to see the enthusiasm among the refugees.
"It is like all of my tiring and hard work paid off, seeing the joy of the children and refugees once inside the shelter," she told Anadolu Agency.
Fast Action Response's executive director, Sri Eddy Kuncuro, had earlier said that community development programs would be run inside the complex, including training in agriculture, keeping livestock and fishing.
In May, a crackdown on people smuggling in Thailand - to which many of the Rohingya had traveled by boat in an effort to get to Malaysia and beyond - scared traffickers into abandoning up to 4,500 migrants on boats in the Andaman Sea.
Indonesia's government - along with Malaysia - has offered to shelter the thousands of Rohingya, ascertain which are genuine refugees and which are migrants, and house them for one year.
After that, it has asked the international community to take the refugees in.