Urgent action needed to save refugees

Wednesday, May 15, 1991

Urgent action needed to save refugees

Some 109 refugees from Aceh, the Indonesian province at the northern tip of Sumatra, face imminent deportation from Malaysia back to Indonesia.

On May 3, the human rights organisation TAPOL and SIMBA (Singapore and Malaysian British Association) were told by the Malaysian High Commission in London that the refugees were being returned at the request of the Indonesian government.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has been denied access to the Acehnese, the first of whom arrived by boat on April 15.

Aceh has recently experienced an increase in fighting between the Indonesian army and the Free Aceh Movement. Thousands of villagers in many parts of Aceh have become victims of oppression, terror and killings by the Indonesian military.

Initially, the Malaysian government appeared to be sympathetic to the plight of the refugees. But deputy foreign minister Abdullah Fadzil Che Wan was quoted in the Malaysian press on April 23 as saying, "We do not recognise their plea for political asylum and have decided to deport them". He said the Indonesian authorities had asked Malaysia not to get involved in its internal affairs.

TAPOL urges that supporters of human rights everywhere bring urgent pressure on the Malaysian government not to deport the Acehnese and to allow the UNHCR to interview them.

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