C0VID-19 pandemic has brought additional problems for the refugees including those who live in Indonesia. Refugees who live independently used to depend on their life upon the financial support from relatives and friends, but suddenly their support got stopped and they can survive with the meager amount of support from the people from local societies. Refugees are living in Indonesia without access to livelihood, hence becoming one of the main obstacles to becoming self-reliant. This condition made them depend on assistance from social organizations which, in fact, could not reach every refugee in Indonesia.
The National COVID-19 Response System in Indonesia did not specifically mention refugees in their services. For these reasons, refugees are placed in the most vulnerable position in comparison with local people.
Refugee roles to respond COVID-19 situation are very significant. Their stories are inspiring and works involve collaboration with the local people. These inspirations are triggering us to present a public discussion: Learning From Refugees in Responding COVID-19.
It is important for Indonesia, as a transit country for refugees, to have a better policy on refugee protection as refugees are among the most vulnerable groups living in Indonesia. Their vulnerability exists due to the fact that they don’t have a specific legal framework that can protect their rights when spending their transit period in Indonesia. Although Indonesia has the 2016 Presidential Regulation on Refugee Handling as the only legal framework that regulates specifically on refugee handling, but it is mostly covering only the administrative aspect rather and not rights protection.
Although the issuing of Presidential Regulation No. 125 in 2016 and having the Refugee Task Force as a coordinating body on mitigation refugee issues in Indonesia can be considered as a progressive steps. The government should and can do more. It is to be noted that the application of refugee mitigation in Indonesia still faces classical problems such as overlapping policies and passing the buck that usually happen between the central government and regional governments.
The government of Indonesia should follow the global trend of inclusivity in handling refugee issues. Indonesia should give more opportunities for refugees to participate and contribute towards their host society. This inclusive attitude would promote community-driven collaboration which could overcome divisions and facilitate economic opportunities for refugees.
“We can’t wait for our government to take a fast-responsive act. No, we can’t. We are stronger than that. If you remember the one who offshored Rohingya’s boat in Aceh on 2015, they were not part of the government. They were fishermen who put their sense of humanity first, rather than continuing fishing for their own livelihood.” Rizka Argadianti, chairwoman of Suaka, said while reflecting on the 2015 Rohingya Refugee crisis during her opening remarks.
The initiative from the refugee community itself should be acknowledged as well. Members of the refugee community who are able to understand English or Bahasa Indonesia can help their group to understand circulated information in Indonesia. In fact, refugees are not neglecting their local community as their neighbor.
“We never forget our Indonesian neighbors who also experience hunger like us. Sharing is caring. We show them respect and feeling after they give us peace and protection” Nimo Ali from Somalia who have just learned what Sembako means during the COVID-19.
She explained in the discussion how she was involved in sembako distribution around her neighborhood besides providing online learning sessions for women refugees through her organization, Sisterhood.
Community learning centers’ (LC) teachers and administrations like Refugee Learning Center (RLC) along with seven other LCs have been assisting their students and families to understand the situation and keeping the students with their academics program through distance learning as explained by Sikandar Ali, manager and principle of RLC that is based in Cisarua, Bogor, West Java.
Hakmat Ziraki, co-founder of Skilled Migrants and Refugee Technicians (SMART) as one of the community-based Initiative, explained that SMART has been assisting Farsi-speaker community to make short videos or creative contents in social media to bridge their language barrier while waiting in uncertain period of time in Indonesia.
Though not many Indonesians understand about refugee life, some who understand about obstacles that are faced by refugees have been contributing their efforts to bridge the lack of knowledge and understanding, namely people like Realisa Masardi. The lecturer from Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta was firstly engaged with refugees in 2012 during her academic research. During covid-19 pandemic, she collected donations to distribute to refugee communities in Jakarta and Cisarua.
It is a message that we need to spread during the commemoration of the World Refugee Day 2020. “The panellists in this discussion are the ultimate examples that with the collaboration and contribution from everyone, refugees are empowered and could give a lot to their host community, to Indonesia” Roswita Kristy from JRS Indonesia said.
Equal opportunities and experiences, the chance to take part and be involved as a part society is important to make sure that no one is left behind during the progress of building a strong and dignified community, and that means #refugeeincluded.
The discussion was the result of collaboration between JRS, SUAKA, LBH Jakarta, HRWG and Sisterhood to commemorate World Refugee Day 2020.
Contact for further information:
Zico at +6281285000708
Lia at +6281291223615
HRWG is the Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG) was established by a the majority of NGOs working in different issues but share interest in human rights to serve the need for elaborate advocacy works already in place with the aim of maximizing the goals and putting more pressures on the Indonesian government to execute its international and constitutional obligations to protecting, fulfilling, respecting and promoting human rights in the country.
LBH Jakarta is the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, or referred to as LBH Jakarta, is a civil society organization under the auspices of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI). LBH Jakarta is the largest legal aid institution in Indonesia with an A accreditation that provides legal assistance to the poor, law illiterate, and oppressed minority. LBH Jakarta’s scope of work includes Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi and Banten.
SUAKA is a non-governmental organization from Indonesia with a focus on protecting the rights of refugees in Indonesia. SUAKA was registered by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights in 2019 as a society. Since 2012 it has worked to raise awareness about the vulnerable situation experienced by asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia. Several civil society organizations and individuals have committed to assisting refugees and asylum seekers for legal assistance. Now the SUAKA program consists of Legal Aid and Empowerment, Public Awareness and Policy Research and Advocacy.
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Indonesia Foundation is a humanitarian organization founded on November 14th, 1980, as a response to the plight of Vietnam “boat people” in Galang Island. Over the last 30 years, together with all who have the same concern, JRS accompanied, served, and advocated the rights of refugees both those in the refugee camps, urban areas, as well as in immigration detention centers.
RLC is a community learning center (LC) in Cisarua Bogor that has been active since 2015. It is one of seven LCs in Bogor that was established to answer the unmet needs of education for refugees. The main activity is teaching and learning activities for elementary school-age children. The number of students of RLC is approximately 150-200 people, even with a fairly long waiting list.
Sisterhood is a community learning center located in the South Jakarta area, specifically for women and girls refugees. The vision is to have a safe and comfortable place for women’s activities and empowerment.
SMART is a refugee-based initiative that has a vision of empowering refugees. SMART consists of refugees who have IT and multimedia skills.
Realisa Masardi has an academic background, http://antropologi.fib.ugm.ac.id/profil/staf-pengajar/realisa-darathea-masardi/. She also has a great social passion, from the beginning of this pandemic spread in Indonesia by actively assisting refugees who live in Jakarta and Bogor.