A public exhibition organised by Singapore’s first volunteer advocacy group for refugees showcased the little-known story of Rohingya refugees rescued by Acehnese fishermen. It was
launched by Member of Parliament Louis Ng and lasted till 14th April at the National Library Plaza. The N(ONE exhibition documents photos and stories of the Rohingya refugees after they were rescued by Acehnese fishermen and includes a documentary screening fringe event.
In May 2015, the Southeast Asian region bore witness to the largest humanitarian boat crisis since the Vietnam War, where thousands of Rohingya and Bengali migrants were adrift at the Andaman Sea after being abandoned by smugglers.
While countries in the region failed to respond, a fishing community in Aceh, Indonesia, rescued these migrants. An Indonesian non-profit group, Yayasan Geutanyoe, then extended aid to both refugees and the Acehnese fishing community, and helped to arrange safe passage for the refugees.
Last year, under Project Hearts to Hands, a group of 30 volunteers from Singapore visited the refugees and fishing community in Aceh.
MP Louis Ng, who was part of the team, shared that “I’ve visited the refugee camps in Aceh twice now and each trip really made me question my faith in humanity. What I saw, the stories I heard and the experience they shared with me really broke my heart.”
The N(ONE exhibition is organised entirely by volunteers from Project Hearts to Hands and local non-profit group Advocates for Refugees. Mathilda Ho, Founder of Advocates for Refugees said, “besides showcasing the Rohingya refugees
who were rescued, the fishermen of Pusong, the rescuers are exemplary of the spirit of humanitarianism, in that they would rescue anyone, even an animal or their enemy. It is an important value that you help others unconditionally.”
This was their first public exhibition, which also includes a film screening of a documentary produced by students from NTU. For details of the exhibition and fringe events, visit the Facebook Page of Project Hearts to Hands.
About Advocates for Refugees
Advocates for Refugees – Singapore (AFR-SG) is Singapore’s first ground-up initiative working for the cause of refugees and forced migration in our region and beyond. They aim to open up community dialogue on refugee and asylum seeker issues, with a strong focus on the impacts of forced migration on Singapore’s closest neighbours (receiving countries) Malaysia, Indonesia, South-East Asia and Asia region as a whole.
AFR-SG encourages ordinary and extraordinary Singaporeans, and people living in Singapore – regardless of political affiliation, religion, race and ethnicity – to participate in dialogues, explore possible roles as individuals, as an interest group/community, and as a nation state can play to offer community-driven solutions and to help ameliorate the causes and consequences of forced migration. As advocates, they believe in the importance of raising awareness, facilitating conversations, and addressing misinformed perceptions (e.g. conflating all refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons as “economic migrants” or labelling them as “illegal migrants”).