Indonesia deports first batch of Bangladeshi 'boat people'

JAKARTA • The Medan immigration office on Wednesday deported a first batch of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants rescued in waters off the northern part of Sumatra.

The 25 Bangladeshis were part of a group of 68 illegal immigrants rescued by fishermen in May this year after their boat was found adrift at sea. Other than the Bangladeshis, illegal Rohingya immigrants were also onboard the boat.

The deportation is being conducted in stages, and this was the first batch to be deported. The immigrants hugged each other and wept as they parted with their fellow refugees, including Rohingya asylum seekers, who have thus far been accommodated at the Berastagi Hotel in Padang Bulan, Medan.

"All the Bangladeshis... will be deported in stages. In the initial stage, we deported 25 immigrants today, while the rest will follow when their immigration documents have completed," immigration officer Guntur Simanjuntak said on the sidelines of the deportation at the hotel on Wednesday morning.

Mr Guntur said the deportation was carried out after the Bangladesh Embassy in Jakarta issued immigration documents for them.

The immigrants hugged each other and wept as they parted with their fellow refugees, including Rohingya asylum seekers.

The immigrants departed from Kualanamu International Airport at 9.15am on Wednesday en route to Kuala Lumpur, before travelling onward to Dhaka.

Earlier, the immigration office said that as many as 2,005 foreigners had taken refuge and were being facilitated at a number of immigration detention centres in North Sumatra. Besides Bangladeshis and Rohingya, the "boat people" in North Sumatra also came from several other conflict-hit countries, such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan and Somalia.

In addition to those stranded in North Sumatra, hundreds of Bangladeshi and Rohingya immigrants also arrived in Aceh in May this year.

The Bangladeshis currently being held with the ethnic Rohingya in Aceh will also be sent home after it was decided that the former had fled their country in search of better jobs, rather than to escape political persecution.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2015, with the headline 'Indonesia deports first batch of Bangladeshi 'boat people''. Print Edition | Subscribe