Jakarta. The government of Gambia, a small West African country nestled between Senegal and Guinea Bissau, declared at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in May that it was ready to host Rohingya and Bangladeshi “boat people” stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia, Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry says.
The OIC meeting, which took place during the Asian-African Conference, also discussed support and aid needed for the refugees, ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Wednesday.
“Gambia [officials] told Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi and the forum that it was ready if refugees decided to settle down there,” Arrmanatha said.
“This shows that other Islamic countries are ready and are interested in solving this humanitarian issue even though it is happening far from their shores.”
It is not clear why Indonesia’s foreign ministry only announced Gambia’s pledge this week, but it comes at a time of heightened international concern about the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya.
Southeast Asia is in the grips of a migrant crisis as the Muslim ethnic minority, who say they are escaping persecution in Myanmar, and poor migrants from Bangladesh try to seek a new life abroad.
Nearly 2,000 refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar were stranded in Aceh, Indonesia’s westernmost province, after the Thai government’s recent crackdown on human trafficking made it too risky for people smugglers to land their human cargo. The people smugglers instead abandoned the asylum seekers at sea.
On its official website, the Gambian government has also asked the international community to help the refugees by providing tents, mattresses, households materials, medicine and other items needed to build temporary camps.
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