Monday, 20 February 2017

US accepts Rohingya refugees from Indonesia

Source TheJakartapost, 13 Feb

US accepts Rohingya refugees from IndonesiaIn crisis -- In this Dec. 2, 2016 photo, Mohsena Begum, a Rohingya who escaped to Bangladesh from Myanmar, holds her child and sits at the entrance of a room of an unregistered refugee camp in Teknaf, near Cox's Bazar, a southern coastal district about, 296 kilometers (183 miles) south of Dhaka, Bangladesh. "They drove us out of our houses, men and women in separate lines, ordering us to keep our hands folded on the back of our heads," says 20-year-old Mohsena Begum, her voice choking as she described what happened to the little village of Caira Fara, which had long been home to hundreds of members of Myanmar's minority Rohingya community. In refugee camps in Bangladesh, survivors of a wave of violence that has swept Myanmar in recent weeks say government forces have targeted minority Rohingya villages, burning many to the ground, killing the innocent and raping women. (AP/A.M. Ahad)

The refugees from Myanmar whose boats washed ashore in Aceh two years ago, have passed interviews conducted by the US Consulate in Medan, North Sumatra, with the assistance of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Juha P. Salin, US Consul for Medan confirmed the transfer of Rohingya refugees to America, adding that the process would be conducted gradually.

"These cases are being processed continually and those who have the approved travel documents can travel to the US," said Salin.

He refused, however, to confirm the number of Rohingya refugees who had been permitted to resettle in the US.

Trump had ordered a fourmonth hold on allowing refugees into the US and a temporary ban on travelers from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which he said would protect Americans from violent Islamists.

The executive order has been blocked by the lower courts, but immigration authorities have continued to conduct raids across major cities in America.

The Ambassador to Indonesia Joseph R. Donovan has reassured Indonesia that the executive order will not affect the American value of religious tolerance.

"Both Americans and Indonesians are very tolerant people at their core and I believe that these values that we share, the importance of tolerance and respect for religious beliefs, particularly other people's religious beliefs, are the kind of values that will prevail in both of our societies," Donovan said earlier.

(Read also: Rohingya refugees in Indonesia worried by Trump presidency)

The resettlement process for Rohingya refugees in Indonesia began in November after the US Consulate in Medan started to interview the 184 Rohingya Muslims, stranded in Aceh.

The process, however, did not involve Rohingya refugees stranded in Medan for a longer period of time.

About 800 Rohingyas are currently staying in Indonesia, all of whom have been granted refugee status by the UNHCR.

According to a Rohingya refugee who was not included in the resettlement process, at least three had already flown to the US in the resettlement program.

Yudi Kurniadi, the head of North Sumatra Immigration Office, said Trump's policy had not affected the asylum applications of Rohingya refugees because Myanmar was not on the list of Trump's banned countries.

"Several Rohingya refugees were sent to the US this month. This was the first batch since the inauguration of Trump as US President," Yudi told The Jakarta Post.

Yudi said the refugees from the province sent to the US over the past few months were only those from Myanmar. Some others had been sent to Australia and Canada.

Medan hosts 2,089 refugees, 390 of whom are from Afghanistan, 363 from Sri Lanka, 490 from Myanmar, 283 from Somalia, 279 from Palestine and 129 from Iran.

Their destination countries include the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, Zarida, another refugee from Myanmar currently living in the city, is also scheduled to be sent to the US on Feb. 14.

Zarida has been staying in Makassar since 2013. The city hosts 1,900 refugees from the Middle East and 60 from Myanmar.

Ramli, the head of the South Sulawesi immigration office, said Zarida's departure to the US was facilitated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

"She passed the verification process and so she will be sent to the US on Feb. 14," said Ramli.

Zarida was first discovered as an undocumented immigrant four years ago in the city.

She was later verified and granted refugee status under the supervision of the IOM.

US begins to resettle Rohingya refugees, transferred from Indonesia Myanmar not subject to Trump's executive order

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