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Media Release

Jakarta, 20 May 2014 — With the Australian government announcing that it will provide Indonesia with AU$86.8 million to support stranded refugees and asylum seekers Suaka, the Indonesian Civil Society Network for Refugee Rights Protection, highlighted the importance of a rights-based approach to inter-governmental cooperation in the region.

It is understood that financial aid will be given to Indonesia over three years, with the aim of bolstering regional cooperation agreements to assist neighbouring countries to manage the thousands of asylum seekers and refugees stuck in the region since Australia’s Coalition government enacted a policy of turning back all refugee boats and returning asylum seekers to Indonesia on vessels purchased by Australia especially for that purpose.

Suaka urges the Australian and Indonesian governments to work together to ensure protection of asylum seekers and refugees in need. The Australian government’s assistance must continue to support international organisations in Indonesia to provide support to asylum seekers and refugees while they wait for durable solutions. The continued implementation of so-called “disruption” activities that attempt to criminalise asylum seeking will not prevent the irregular movement of people in the region if their already desperate situations become more dire.

Febionesta, Co-Chair of Suaka and Director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) said “Financial support offered to the Government of Indonesia by Australia must be directed to ensuring protection needs, including funding for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Refugee Status Determination (RSD) and services for asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia, such as the provision of adequate housing, healthcare and education.”

Indonesia is not party to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (or the 1967 Protocol) and has limited domestic legal protections for refugees and asylum seekers waiting in the country. The Government of Indonesia does not provide funding for any support services for persons of concern.

Suaka is also concerned that the Australian government’s Displaced Person’s Program (DPP) has been axed. “The DPP provided funding for projects which support durable solutions for refugees and other displaced populations, or, where durable solutions cannot be found, support their protection and stabilisation” said Muhammad Hafiz, Co-Chair of Suaka and UN-OIC Advocacy Program Manager at Indonesian NGO, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG). “Funding cuts to already severely under-resourced programs will only cause more harm to people who are escaping persecution and looking for protection,” said Mr. Hafiz.

According to UNHCR estimates, there are over 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees currently residing in Indonesia. These numbers include persons who are awaiting Refugee Status Determination (RSD) from UNHCR, persons who are awaiting resettlement in a third country, and persons in immigration detention. There were around 1800 people in detention at the end of January 2014, including 300 women and 100 unaccompanied minors. Unofficially, it is believed there are thousands more asylum seekers living in the community in Indonesia unknown to UNHCR.

Protection concerns for asylum seekers in Indonesia include the lack of domestic legal protections, immigration detention, inadequacy of support services, problems with the refugee status determination process, and the very limited availability of resettlement placements. Waiting lists for support services are extremely long, and without the right to work, asylum seekers and refugees are unable to support themselves and their families. Support from NGOs and organisations such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) does not fulfill the food, healthcare, housing and education needs of asylum seekers and refugees.


Director of Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) & Co-Chair of Suaka

Muhammad Hafiz
UN-OIC Advocacy Program Manager, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)  & Co-Chair of Suaka