Jakarta – SUAKA and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS Indonesia) carried out a panel discussion event. RISE Discussion Series entitled “Welcoming the Global Refugee Forum 2023: The Role of Civil Society and Refugee Communities in the Development of International and National Refugee Situation”. This public event was held on June 24, 2023 from 13.30 to 17.00 WIB in the H.B. Jassin Hall, Ismail Marzuki Park, Jakarta.
This event aims to socialize about the latest conditions of refugees at the world level, especially in Indonesia, both in terms of protecting the human rights of refugees and legal developments as a joint effort in welcoming the 2023 Global Refugee Forum. In this discussion activity was present Nino Viartasiwi, Ph.D. (Academia of International Relations President University), Dr. Natalia Yeti Puspita, S.H., M.Hum. (Academia of Law Atma Jaya University Jakarta), Nimo Ahmed (Co-Founder of Sisterhood Community), Angga Reynady, S.H. ( Empowerment and Legal Aid Staff of SUAKA) as the keynote speaker and two representatives from the refugee community as discussion panelists – Abeer Abulamzy and Nashaat Yousif. Also attending were Enny Soeprapto, an activist on refugee issues in Indonesia.
Dr. Natalia Yeti Puspita, S.H., M.Hum., started the session by presenting material related to climate change which also had an effect on the global migration crisis. There is great potential for an increase in the number of refugees due to climate change and natural disasters. Citing the findings of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), she estimates that 1.2 billion people will be displaced due to climate change and natural disasters.
Furthermore, Dr. Natalia explained that refugees caused by the impact of climate disasters were not included in the category of refugees in the 1951 Convention which therefore did not meet the requirements for protection. He alluded to the case of Ioane Teitiota, a man from Kiribati who received legal protection from the UN Human Rights Committee because he was affected by climate change after being refused asylum by New Zealand.
The second speaker is Nino Viartasiwi, Ph.D. who explained her research with RDI UREF on the main challenges in protecting refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia. She noted that Indonesia does not yet have an effective and comprehensive refugee management system, even though Presidential Regulation No. 125 of 2016 concerning Handling of Refugees from Abroad. She said that there was a lack of coordination among the Task Force (Satgas) in dealing with refugee issues. In addition, the absence of a legal definition of refugees in Indonesia confuses the public which ultimately hinders advocacy for better protection for refugees.
Nino added that there is a cultural and social gap between refugees and local communities. She believes that the process of social integration will be achieved more easily and quickly when refugees can mingle with the local community in terms of language, culture and social norms of the local community. So she highly recommends for refugees to learn Indonesian so that it can help them to blend in with society in the future.
The third speaker was Nimo Ahmed Co-Founder from Sisterhood Community. She explained the challenges of refugees and efforts to encourage the hopes of refugees in Indonesia through the organization she formed, namely the Sisterhood Community. Nimo introduced her organization and how she collaborated with local communities to support women refugees. Founded in 2018, Sisterhood Community is a self-led movement of women refugees providing training from basic to advanced skills such as makeup, sewing, graphic design, and public speaking.
In 2023, this community had 500 members throughout Indonesia. She is grateful that local community members support the activities of this community, as there are 33 non-refugee volunteers working with Nimo and the team. She closed her remarks by explaining a series of challenges his community would face throughout 2023. She mentioned that mental health and budget constraints could affect the sustainability of the community. Therefore, she suggested that finding accessible funds should be a priority for communities and civil society organizations that aim to help refugees in Indonesia.
Currently, there are at least 12,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia from around 50 countries. However, until now Indonesia has not ratified the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the 1967 Protocol regarding the Status of Refugees. Resilience is needed in the face of uncertainty about their future. So we need a forum that can then encourage refugees to be able to increase their self-capacity.
The panel discussion was closed with a presentation from the SUAKA. Represented by Angga, he reported on the empowerment and legal assistance programs that SUAKA had carried out so far. In terms of legal work, SUAKA has received a total of 45 cases in 2023. Data for May 2023 shows that issues of resettlement and violence dominate reports from the refugee community. From the report, Angga highlighted the worrying practice of Indonesian immigration in repatriating asylum seekers and/or refugees. SUAKA noted that there have been 3 cases of refoulement since 2020.
SUAKA believes that civil society organizations must work together to address issues of language barriers, awareness of unequal access to digital platforms, limited resources, and limited public awareness of refugee issues if we want to broaden the base of support for comprehensive refugee management. Angga also alluded to the Global Refugee Forum as a forum for discussion by representatives and state leaders regarding the joint obligation to protect refugees globally which will be held at the end of this year. It is hoped that the existence of this forum can be used by Indonesia to show its good intentions in creating a legal umbrella related to the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and its implementation.
Happy World Refugee Day 2023!