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World Refugee Day 2020: Fighting Exclusion Through Social Cohesion

by Julio Achmadi, SUAKA member, Legal Empowerment Coordinator

Originally posted in his blog:

Over the past few years of my experience working in refugee related issue, social exclusion seems to be one of the root causes of discrimination against refugees in Indonesia. With almost 14.000 refugees and asylum seekers, Indonesia should take a lead in Southeast Asia to include refugee in creating collaborations and programs to improve national welfare.

Social Exclusion
Social exclusion is a process in which an individual/a group is unable to gain equal access to various rights, opportunities and resources that are accessible by other people/group. This process usually marginalizes those who are already considered as a marginalized group, one of which are refugees and their communities in Indonesia. Imagine fleeing your country due to persecution and not having your rights fulfilled, to just arrive in another place with minimum protection of rights. Even though I might not be able to understand completely how it feels to be in their position, it is truly devastating to live in limbo without having the access to rights such as to formal education and work. Hence, it led refugee communities to be dependent to charitable help. These conditions deteriorate the well-being of most refugees while staying in Indonesia which has been proven by the large amount of refugees who are experiencing PTSD, anxiety disorder, stress, and other mental health issues.

In the Covid-19 situation, refugees are hardly included in national or local program provided by Indonesian government. For instance, access to information related to Covid-19 that can be understood by refugees is barely provided by the government. NGOs and International Organizations are actively filling the gap to translate information from the source language (Indonesian) to the languages used by refugees. The access to health and sanitary products are also provided mostly by civil society who are concerned about refugee communities. This condition shows the lack of attention given by the state to refugees as a vulnerable group. Bear in mind that refugees who are living in Indonesia are part of Indonesian society, irrelevant with Indonesia not being signatory to The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

World Refugee Day
On the 4th of December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 declared 20th of June as World Refugee Day (WRD). With limited amount of publication on refugee back then, I discovered Indonesia’s first commemoration of WRD was back in 2002. It was an event facilitated by UNHCR Indonesia.[1] The organization I am in, SUAKA, commemorates our first WRD back in 2014, with “Refugee Rights are Human Rights” as the theme.[2] Now, we are 20 years forward from the declaration of WRD by United Nations. It is about time that refugees are placed in the center of conversation and considered as a stakeholder in the process of decision making towards better program and regulation.

Fighting the Exclusion

Social cohesion is one of the answers to resolve social exclusion. It is a condition of willingness of members of society to accept and cooperate with each other. Social cohesion is important as it fights exclusion and marginalization against refugee communities. Refugees are a group of beautiful people with their unique characteristics and capabilities. They know things that Indonesian people don’t. They offer skills that Indonesian people might not have. They are already a part of our society and we should support and embrace their existence, which enriches our society even further. “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) should apply to them too.

Social cohesion requires both refugee and Indonesian communities to work together. It is not a one-sided effort made by only refugee communities who want to feel belonged, but also for Indonesian communities to welcome them wholeheartedly. This year, we use #RefugeeIncluded to break the systemic exclusion, because we are stronger together.

Happy World Refugee Day 2020.

[1] UNHCR Indonesia, World Refugee Day 2002: Indonesia, 2002.

[2] LBH Jakarta, Peringatan “World Refugee Day: Refugee Rights Are Human Rights”, 2014.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Le niveau social du réfugié en cette période du covid-19 reste déplorable, la main tendue du gouvernement indonésien et les différentes assistance possibles de l’UNHCR et ses partenaires restent le dernier poumon d’espoir pour la subsistance des réfugiés en Indonésie. Alors si cela perdure quelle serait alors l’impact sur l’avenir des réfugiés dans le cadre de la réinstallation puisque la finalité c’est chercher une bonne intégration sociale pour un lendemain meilleur.


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