UNHCR asylum seekers stuck in capital told to vacate West Jakarta shelter on Aug 31

Refugees from various countries hold a rally and a hunger strike outside of UNHCR offices in Jakarta on August 20, 2019, protesting Australia’s freeze on resettlement policy. 
BAY ISMOYO / AFP
Refugees from various countries hold a rally and a hunger strike outside of UNHCR offices in Jakarta on August 20, 2019, protesting Australia’s freeze on resettlement policy. BAY ISMOYO / AFP

The fates of some 1,500 asylum seekers currently in limbo in West Jakarta may become even murkier by the end of the month after the Jakarta Regional Council (DPRD) announced that the government would stop providing them aid.

Last month, a group of around 300 refugees spent weeks living on the streets in front of the offices of the United Nations High Council on Refugees (UNHCR) in Jakarta before they were relocated to a temporary shelter in Kalideres, West Jakarta. While West Jakarta locals opposed the refugees’ presence in the subdistrict, more have arrived to take refuge at the shelter since.

According to DPRD Speaker Prasetio Edi Marsudi, on Aug 31, the provincial government, under the instructions of the central government, will stop extending aid to the asylum seekers, who will have to vacate the shelter.

“We have helped them for 41 days, as it so happens that our budget is not enough to cover [giving them aid] continuously,” Prasetio told reporters yesterday, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Prasetio added that UNHCR, along with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), should consider repatriating the refugees.

“[We hope UNHCR and IOM] are ready to assist in sending the refugees back to their home countries. It’s just that we have no capability [to assist them]. They have become a burden on the area,” he said.

Representatives of UNHCR and IOM told Kompas that they have yet to find solutions for the 1,500 asylum seekers. Not only is their time at the shelter running out, UNHCR says that supplies of food are also running out.

The plight of refugees stuck in Indonesia is immense. Even those who attain official UN refugee status face an estimated wait that has gone from “many years” to “likely never” before they can be resettled to a refugee-friendly country. Stuck in legal limbo and with no right to work in Indonesia, unsurprisingly, many have ended up homeless. 

Last month, a group camped out on the streets in front of the UNHCR office in protest of their poor living conditions and the slow resettlement process, refusing to budge until they had been offered some form of assistance. 

According to UN data, Indonesia is home to about 14,000 refugees, consisting mostly of people from Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. Not so long ago, UNHCR promised resettlement times of 2-3 years, but in the intervening time the number of refugees has increased while many of those countries willing to take them in are being pressured to close their doors, leading the UN agency to tell refugees that they may have to wait in Indonesia indefinitely to have any hope of resettlement.

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CITY: JAKARTACATEGORY: NEWS

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