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Protection for refugees in Indonesia: A state responsibility

Refugees in Indonesia have staged many rallies this year. The street hosting the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Indonesia, Jl. Kebon Sirih in Central Jakarta, was filled with refugees, requesting protection and a solution to their situation living in limbo for years, particularly from June to August.

Refugee migration is increasing worldwide as a result of civil wars and internal conflicts in various parts of the world. The UN estimates that as of last June, Indonesia had been a host to almost 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, etc.

Indonesia has a responsibility as a state in providing protection for refugees and asylum seekers. Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. However, is being signatory to the aforementioned conventions the only pre-requisite for a state in providing protection for refugees in Indonesia?

As a member of the UN, Indonesia is signatory to eight core international human rights conventions, some of which have been adopted in domestic regulations. Apart from international conventions, Presidential Regulation 125/2016 on the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia has acknowledged and recognized refugees in a national legal context, even though protection clauses are lacking within the said regulation.

Ratifying an international convention may require the state to do more work, but further research is needed on the potential impacts on the state’s readiness in adhering to the international standards of human rights fulfillment, among other things. What are the current solutions for refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia?

The UN cites three main durable solutions: assisted voluntary repatriation, resettlement and integration with the local community. The first choice is hardly a possible option as the conflicts in refugees’ country of origin rarely subside; while the non-refoulement principle under international customary law considers making refugees return to their own country and endangering their safety a breach of international law. Resettlement, which is highly hoped by refugees as the best solution for them, also does not seem possible with the rise of extreme nationalism, Islamophobia and resistance from countries such as Australia, the United States as well as European countries who used to accept refugees from Indonesia.

This situation leaves us with the third option. As a non-signatory member of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its Optional Protocol of 1967, the government might say integration with the local community is not a possible option. However, integration is inevitable between the refugee community and Indonesian society. The refugees have already started integrating in society ever since they arrived on Indonesian soil.

Ending the conflicts in the respective countries would be a utopic solution for refugee migration in general. With a minimum chance of going back to their countries and being resettled, living in limbo for more than eight years as the average waiting time to be resettled, has greatly affected the mental health of refugees in Indonesia. Assuming the average waiting time is lengthened due to the minimal successful resettlement cases and steady influx of refugees into Indonesia, the government must start preparing for the unavoidable consequences of the current situation by starting to provide basic rights to refugees and legal recognition.

In India, Tibetan refugees’ right to residency is contingent upon a Registration Certificate (RC) which is a legal document issued by Indian authorities, equivalent to an identity card. RC issuance to Tibetans started in 1956 when the Dalai Lama was exiled, followed by a mass exodus of Tibetan refugees into India. RCs are valued as they allow Tibetans to legally travel and work within the country, serving as an identity document and a prerequisite for an Identity Certificate. Although currently, the process to acquire an RC is arduous, the legal recognition remains clear for Tibetans in India.

In 2000, Malaysia as the host of more than 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers provided nonrenewable six-month work permits for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. In 2015, Malaysia had considered in multiple cases the creation of temporary work permits. The permits were supposed to benefit Rohingya refugees to be legally employed in Malaysia, though the plan did not materialize.

Indonesia’s government can learn from the practices in India and Malaysia as progressive commitments from states who are not signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. For instance, Indonesia can create a Kartu Izin Tinggal Sementara untuk Pengungsi (Refugee Temporary Stay Permit Card) or collaborate in partnerships with local and international agencies to establish livelihood opportunities.

Indonesia has to adopt long-term strategies rather than ad-hoc policies to prevent a bottleneck in providing legal recognition as well as sufficient protection for refugees and asylum seekers.

by Julio Castor, Human rights lawyer and member of SUAKA, an association advocating protection for asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia.

This article originally appeared on The Jakarta Post, link below:

JRS Training on Human Rights and Refugee Advocacy


JRS Jakarta and JRS Bogor are conducting training on Human Rights and Refugee Advocacy.

Please read carefully information below

If you live in Jakarta, you should ONLY apply the training in Jakarta. If you live in Bogor you should ONLY apply the training in Bogor.

The BOGOR training will be conducted on 17-19 September 2019. FOR BOGOR applicants, the application already CLOSED.

The JAKARTA training will be conducted 15-17 October 2019. FOR JAKARTA applicants, APPLY HERE:

1. Age of 18 years old or above. Refugee and Local Community are welcome!
2. Interested to be active in the community for refugee advocacy and other social services;
3. Able to communicate in good English (speaking and writing);
4. Willing and commit voluntarily to do advocacy work after participating in the training; and
5. Willing to volunteer in a diverse situation of nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, and gender.


Deadline of Application for Jakarta training is extended until Sunday, 1 September at 23:59.

Please check the document below for complete information.

Contact Person JAKARTA:
Gading at 081-1111-6772

Contact Person BOGOR:
Bonita at 0859-2155-9649
Elsza at 0859-6054-9560

Know Your Rights: A Handbook for Refugees and Asylum Seekers

This handbook was initiated with the realization that rights are not readily accessible and being uphold for refugees and asylum seekers living in Indonesia. This result in precarious situation refugees and asylum seekers should face on daily basis.

Understanding the problem, SUAKA has been planning to develop a document that will help refugees and asylum seekers understand their rights and how to access it. Similar plans, fortunately, also emerge from fellow organizations who work to uphold refugees’ rights, Sandya Institute, UNHCR, and Jesuit Refugee Service. The organizations collaborated, giving their resources, time, and energy to engage in a series of discussions to understand what is relevant to ease the burden of refugees and asylum seekers living in Indonesia.

Upon our discussions, we agree that ten issues should be put forward. There are issues that we believe relevant but the limited time and resource pushed us to prioritize ten of them, with the determination to work on the rest as the document as our collaboration continues.

Legal reviews on current regulation were the starting point of our writing process, ensuring that the information is in line with Indonesia’s legal framework. We also consult the drafts with representatives from the government and the refugee community, an effort to confirm and elaborate the information we already had.

You can read the document partially as each chapter tries to address different issues. However, some chapter may intermingle as it is connected with each other. We will try to continuously update the information periodically, hoping that the document will be as resourceful as possible.

Lastly, we hope the book can help refugees and asylum seekers living in Indonesia to know their rights and how to access it. We realize that there is still plenty of homework to be done to ensure that refugees’ and asylum seekers’ rights are fulfilled. Further collaborations are still needed, not only with the organizations but also with the refugee communities and other stakeholders.

Unduh Know Your Rights: A Handbook for Refugees and Asylum Seekers dengan mengklik tautan di bawah ini (Download by clicking the link below)

Know Your Rights Handbook

Peringatan Hari HAM Sedunia 2018: Refugees Right Is Human Rights

No. 26/R/SUAKA-CPG/XII/2018

“Mainstreaming Refugee Rights on Human Rights Movement: Refugees Right Is Human Rights”

(english translation below)

(Jakarta, 10 Desember 2018) Diskusi dan peluncuran ‘Know Your Rights: A Handbook for Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ merupakan kegiatan dalam memperingati Hari Hak Asasi Manusia yang dilakukan oleh SUAKA (Jaringan Kerja Masyarakat Sipil Indonesia untuk Perlindungan Hak-hak Pengungsi) dan para mitra di Universitas Katholik Atma Jaya.

Konflik dan persekusi di dunia membuat warga negara meninggalkan negaranya dan mencari suaka di negara lain. Berbagai permasalahan kerap dihadapi pencari suaka dan pengungsi, bahkan saat di negara transit. Pelanggaran terhadap perlindungan dan pemenuhan hak pencari suaka dan pengungsi dapat terjadi karena ketidakpahaman pejabat pemerintah dalam menangani isu pengungsi. Selain itu, pencari suaka dan pengungsi tidak memahami atau bahkan tahu hak asasi yang mereka miliki.

“Untuk membantu pencari suaka dan pengungsi di Indonesia dalam memahami hak-haknya sesuai dengan hukum Indonesia, kami (SUAKA) membuat Know Your Rights: a Handbook for Refugees and Asylum Seekers yang dikerjakan bersama dengan Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Indonesia, Lembaga Bantuan Hukum (LBH) Jakarta, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) dan Sandya Institute”, ujar Febi Yonesta (Ketua SUAKA).

Terdapat 10 tema dalam handbook yaitu Seeking Asylum in Indonesia; Refugee Status Determination; Rights to Legal Counsel; Rights to Adequate Standard of Living; Rights to Health Services; Rights to Education; Freedom of Association; Rights to Birth Registration; Mixed Marriage; dan Detention and Freedom of Movement.

“Selain membantu pencari suaka dan pengungsi dalam memahami dan mengakses hak-haknya, kesepuluh tema tersebut diharapkan membantu pembuat kebijakan agar kebijakan yang dibuatnya lebih baik dan Indonesia siap menghadapi tantangan di isu ini”, tambahnya.

Tahun 2018 bertepatan dengan 70 tahun peringatan Deklarasi Universal Hak Asasi Manusia. Pemenuhan terhadap perlindungan hak asasi manusia tidak sedewasa umurnya, khususnya dalam isu pencari suaka dan pengungsi. ”Indonesia sebagai salah satu negara transit berkewajiban memberikan perlindungan dan pemenuhan hak asasi bagi pencari suaka dan pengungsi. Pemahaman terkait isu ini juga harus diperluas hingga menjadi diskusi di masyarakat agar mereka tidak awam dan dapat hidup berdampingan dengan pencari suaka dan pengungsi di Indonesia,” tutup Febi Yonesta.


Febi Yonesta (0878 7063 6308)


No. 26/R/SUAKA-CPG/XII/2018

“Mainstreaming Refugee Rights on Human Rights Movement: Refugees Right Is Human Rights”

(Jakarta, 10 December 2018) The discussion and launching of ‘Know Your Rights: A Handbook for Refugees and Asylum Seekers’ is an activity to commemorate the Human Rights Day conducted by SUAKA (Indonesian Civil Society Working Network for the Protection of Refugee Rights) with its partners at Atma Jaya Catholic University.

Conflict and persecution in the world makes citizens leave their countries and seek asylum in other countries. Various problems are often faced by asylum seekers and refugees, even in transit countries. Violations of the protection and fulfillment of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees can occur due to lack of understanding of government officials in handling refugee issues. In addition, asylum seekers and refugees often do not understand or even aware the human rights they have.

“To assist asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia in understanding their rights in accordance with Indonesian law, we (SUAKA) made Know Your Rights: a Handbook for Refugees and Asylum Seekers that was done jointly with from Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Indonesia, Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Jakarta, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Sandya Institute, “said Febi Yonesta (Chair of SUAKA).

There are 10 themes in the handbook, namely Seeking Asylum in Indonesia; Refugee Status Determination; Rights to Legal Counsel; Rights to Adequate Standard of Living; Rights to Health Services; Rights to Education; Freedom of Association; Rights to Birth Registration; Mixed Marriage; and Detention and Freedom of Movement.

“In addition to helping asylum seekers and refugees in understanding and accessing their rights, the ten themes are expected to help policy makers so that the policies they make are better and Indonesia is ready to face challenges on this issue,” he added.

2018 coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The effort to meet the protection of human rights is not as mature as its age, especially in the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. “Indonesia as one of the transit countries is obliged to provide protection and fulfillment of human rights for asylum seekers and refugees. “Understanding of this issue must also be expanded to become a discussion in the community so that they are not lay and can coexist with asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia,” concluded Febi Yonesta.


Contact Person:
Febi Yonesta (0878 7063 6308)


Unduh rilis pers dengan meng-klik link di bawah (download this press release by clicking the link below):

SUAKA Press Release – Hari HAM 2018

Resettlement Information for Asylum Seeker and Refugee


This information will help you to answer frequently asked questions specifically on resettlement, and durable solutions in general.This page is for information purposes only. It is not legal advice.



SUAKA is unable to assist with or give advice regarding resettlement to a Third Country. The decision to accept a refugee for resettlement is made by the resettlement country.

Less than 5% of the worldwide refugee population will be offered resettlement. This means less than 1 in every 200 people.

Resettlement is not a right. Resettlement is not an obligation of other countries. Countries that have signed the International Refugee Convention do not have to offer resettlement.


Durable solutions

There are three official durable solutions for someone who has been recognized as a refugee by UNHCR.

  1. Resettlement to a Third Country that accepts refugees from UNHCR;
  2. Integration with local population of the Country they were found to be a refugee in;
  3. Repatriation to Country of Origin – if the risk of persecution is no longer present.


Resettlement to a Third Country

Resettlement can be formally made only to a Country which is a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention. Indonesia has not signed the Refugee Convention.

Once an asylum seeker is recognized as a refugee, and if they meet resettlement criteria, a refugee may be asked to attend UNHCR for a resettlement interview. After this, their basic information may be sent to the embassy of resettlement Countries. The resettlement Country does not receive your complete file, only basic information along with an application from UNHCR, called a ‘Resettlement Registration Form (RRF).

Under UNHCR guidelines, and the policies of resettlement countries, resettlement priority is given to persons who are most vulnerable – those with serious medical conditions, unaccompanied children, women at risk, etc. Waiting is very difficult, but there are only a very small number of resettlement places and a very very large number of people waiting to be resettled.

The decision to resettle a refugee is made by the resettlement Country only. Not by UNHCR. The resettlement Country will consider applications made by UNHCR, in line with their Countries resettlement and humanitarian policies.

The time provided by each Country to consider a resettlement request depends on many factors, including each Countries resettlement and humanitarian policies, and the number of refugees the Country offers to resettle every year. Quotas for each Country may change from year to year, depending on the policies of that country.

Neither SUAKA nor UNHCR is not able to give a timeline for resettlement. We cannot give a timeline for how long it will take a resettlement Country to reply once a resettlement application has been made.

SUAKA cannot assist with resettlement applications. If you believe you may meet vulnerability guidelines please email us a copy of your refugee card and explain why you think you are at increased risk and require resettlement. Email:


Intergration with local population.

Currently, Indonesia is not signatory to the International Refugee Convention and cannot officially accept refugees for permanent resettlement.

Many refugees may be in Indonesia for a long time, many years, and informally integrate into Indonesia by getting to know their Indonesian neighbours and taking part in day to day life in their community.

At this point in time, refugees in Indonesia do not have the right to work. Refugee children do have a right to education however in practice, language, cultural barriers and costs often make attending school very difficult.


Repatriation/voluntary repatriation.

If UNHCR decides a country is safe for return, refugees from that country living in Indonesia may be repatriated back to their home country. This process is complex and does not occur very often.

A refugee may also make the decision to return to their home country voluntarily. UNHCR will consider all of the available information and make a decision whether it is safe for the refugee to return. If it is, UNHCR partners such as IOM (International Organisation for Migration) will assist to organize your return. If UNHCR does not think it is safe they will be unable to assist the refugee to return. The refugee may still decide to return on their own without the assistance of UNHCR.

The UNHCR resettlement handbook is available HERE


What else can you do?

 Suaka continues to campaign in Indonesia for work rights for refugees. Many organizations around the world campaign in their own country for their governments to increase resettlement places.  You can support our campaign, and also ask any friends in Indonesia and other countries to support Suaka so we can continue to advocate for refugees.

  1. Learn Indonesian language (Bahasa Indonesia). It will help you communicate with people in your local area. If your children can become fluent in Indonesian it will help them to get a chance to be place in a local school.
  1. If you are a university graduate, research student scholarships in other countries. There are more universities offering scholarships for refugees now. For example, Kiron University in Germany accepts asylum seekers and refugees as online students. Check >>
  1. If you have family members in countries where refugees are resettled, ask them to go to a refugee legal clinic or other place that gives legal advice and ask if they can sponsor you to come to their country.
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