Jakarta, 20 November 2014 — Suaka, the Indonesian Civil Society Network for Refugee Rights Protection, strongly criticized the anti-resettlement policies issued by the Australian Government targeted at refugees residing in Indonesia. “This policy is clearly contrary to the international obligations of Australia as a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and increases the uncertainty of the situation for refugees in transit in Indonesia,” said Febionesta, Chair of Suaka.
Immigration policies issued on 11 November 2014 means asylum seekers and refugees will be denied a resettlement placement to Australia if they registered with UNHCR Indonesia after of July 1, 2014. The policy also cuts the refugee resettlement quota of 600 to 450 people per year.
The policy ensures around 1911 asylum seekers and refugees who apply to UNHCR after the month of July 2014, it will not be eligible for resettlement to Australia. The asylum seekers are from countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka. In addition, there are about 4300 refugees and 6200 asylum seekers currently residing in Indonesia, who will be forced to wait even longer for the resettlement process due to the reduction in quotas.
The number of refugees being resettled to Australia is the largest compared to others from Indonesia, who go to countries such as New Zealand, USA, Canada or Germany. When totalled, these countries only accept around 10% of those accepted by Australia.
This policy puts refugees in increasingly difficult conditions, especially in transit countries that do not have adequate legal guarantees to protect refugees, such as as Indonesia. The uncertain period of waiting for resettlement takes an average of three years and during this time, asylum seekers and refugees are very vulnerable. In Indonesia, they have no right to work, no right to health, no right to housing and find it very difficult to access to basic education for their children. In the total number of asylum seekers and refugees, there are about 3000 children and around 1,000 of them are children without parents.
Indonesia still sees them as illegal immigrants, subject to immigration detention, although they are not criminals. Logistical and livelihood support for refugees is not provided by the Indonesian government; they rely on the assistance of international organizations who have very limited resources.
Nevertheless, Australia’s new policy can be seen as a challenge for Indonesia to realize its commitment to upholding human rights that apply to everyone without exception, including the right to seek asylum as set out in section 28G (2) of the Constitution. In this regard, Indonesia should regard asylum seekers and refugees are not as illegal immigrants, but s people who have become victims of war or persecution in their home country and come to Indonesia to seek refuge. Refugees and asylum seekers should be treated fairly and with dignity, given adequate protection, including but not limited to the granting of access to education, health, housing, and employment.
“The issue of asylum seekers and refugees is a shared responsibility of both countries, the regional community, and internationally,” said Febionesta. “With humanitarian crises around the world, this Australian policy that closes the door on protection is not appropriate,” he concluded.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Director of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta)
Chair of Suaka Suaka.Secretariat@gmail.com