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Media Release

Refugee Protection Must Answer Key Issues Regarding Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Indonesia

The Government of Indonesia has passed Presidential Decree (Perpres) 31 December 2016: ”Republic of Indonesia Presidential Decree 125/2016 regarding Refugees from Abroad”.

SUAKA; Indonesian Civil Society Network for Refugee Rights Protection, welcomes this Presidential Decree (Perpres), which has been planned since 2010. This regulation fills a legal vacuum which has long affected asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia. It confirms Article 28G of the Indonesian Constitution, and Article 25 – 27 of Law No. 37 of 1999 on Foreign Relations.

Febi Yonesta, Chair of SUAKA, confirmed that this regulation should become the key regulation and reference for all Indonesian government officials in relation to the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees within Indonesian jurisdiction.

“Before this regulation, government officials, especially junior officials and officials in outlying areas, were hesitant to address issues affecting asylum seekers and refugees, including the arrival of asylum seekers by boat into Indonesian waters,” said Febi. “Due to the absence of regulation their approach was often protectionist, which increases the vulnerability of people seeking asylum from war, persecution and mistreatment.” he said.

“Based on the Perpres, there is now an established coordination and a clear function by the Government in relation to the treatment of asylum seekers, no matter the mode of their arrival,” he continued.

According to SUAKA, the implementation of this Perpres will increase understanding among government officials, and in turn increase the ability of officers in the field to implement the Perpres. Previously, asylum seekers and refugees were often viewed as illegal immigrants or illegals,a negative term which is not legally accurate.

“We appreciate that this new Perpres confirms the definition of refugees contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and does not continue to label asylum seekers as illegal immigrants,” said Muhammad Hafiz, SUAKA Advocacy Coordinator, and Executive Director Human Rights Working Group Indonesia (HRWG).

“All relevant government agencies should immediately adopt the Perpres definition, so as to treat asylum seekers and refugees as regulated under Indonesian law.” he added.

Hafiz further asserted that Indonesia should additionally ensure human rights principles contained in International Conventions are incorporated into any future regulation, such as principles contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and other International Conventions ratified by the Indonesian Government.

“Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention or 1967 Refugee Protocol. Consequently, Perpres should be carried out in accordance with the convention and protocol, to ensure the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia are guaranteed,” affirmed Hafiz.

SUAKA encourages the Indonesian Government to disseminate the Perpres widely and provide training to local government agencies across Indonesia, in order to ensure effectiveness and compliance. Especially in areas where asylum seekers and refugees are held in detention or live in the community, such as Aceh, Makassar, Medan, Tanjung Pinang, Kupang and West Java, SUAKA believes it is important regional government officials understand the reasons why this Perpres was entered, in order to ensure this very vulnerable group will be treated according to basic human rights.

SUAKA is appreciative of the work of Indonesian government departments to implement the Perpres, as it is already complete enough to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

SUAKA urges the government to be especially aware and concerned in regards to vulnerable people in emergency situations at sea, and to asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia who are are experiencing serious and ongoing medical issues, are pregnant, live with a disability, minors under the age of 18 years, especially minors who are separated from their family, and also the elderly.

SUAKA also urges the Indonesian government to recognise and implement: the right to family unity; a clear definition of a refugee under Indonesian law; a fair distribution of supportive roles between institutions under the principle of shared responsibility; and the use of the Indonesian state finances to promote refugee protection.

Jakarta, January 18, 2017

For further comment contact:

Febionesta (Chair SUAKA): 087 870 636 308

Muhammad Hafiz (Advocacy Coordinator SUAKA): 081 282 958 035