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FAQs about refugees

This FAQ is intended as a living document which will be open for updates, revisions, and addition based on the needs of the refugee community, and the changes on relevant Indonesian laws and regulations.

Public Services

Can refugees legally marry with other refugees or with Indonesian citizens in Indonesia?
No, refugees can’t legally marry with other refugees or with Indonesian citizens, and they can only marry religiously.

To be legally married, according to Article 2 Law No. 1 of 1974 regarding Marriage, the marriage must be conducted according to the religious process by recognized religion and registered to the Religious Affair Office or Civil Administration Office. Indonesian law also recognizes marriage between foreigners in Indonesia as long as it is registered by the relevant officials in accordance with the Article 35 letter b of Law No. 23 of 2006 regarding Population Administration in connection with Article 2 Law No. 1 of 1974 regarding Marriage.

In the case of marriage between foreigners in Indonesia, there are certain documents that need to be fulfilled before registering to the officials. It is stated in the Article 12 para. 2 of Ministry of Internal Affairs Regulation No. 12 of 2010 regarding Guidelines for Marriage Registration and Reporting of Deeds Issued by Other Countries (Permendagri No. 12 Tahun 2010), the documents need to be fulfilled are:

  • Certificate of marriage from a religious leader/pastor or Marriage Certificate of
    Believers signed by the Leaders of Believers
  • Birth certificate from both of the husband and wife
  • Letter of permission from the representatives of State of both husband and wife
  • Passport
  • Family card & ID Card if the foreigners already recognized as resident
  • Residence certificate for the foreigners with KITAS

Further, there are also documents required for registering any marriage between foreigners and Indonesian citizens. These documents were cited from PERCA Indonesia and also stated in Know Your Rights. Those documents required for foreigners are:

  • Letter of impediment from the embassy of origin country
  • Valid passport
  • Valid visa/temporary residence (KITAS)
  • Birth certificate
  • Divorce certificate for divorcee
  • Photo of each person 2×3 and 3×4 with blue background for Islamic Marriage
  • Photo of the couple together with a red background for non-Islamic marriage
  • All documents have to be translated to Indonesian by a sworn translator or legalized
    by your embassy in Indonesia

As far as we are concerned, refugees that arrived in Indonesia arrived without carrying complete administrative documents when they were forced to leave their Country. Further, those certain documents can’t be obtained in Indonesia because of the jurisdictional, legal, and administrative reasons. Passports for example, it is not the jurisdiction of Indonesia to pass a passport for someone who is not an Indonesian citizen. This situation can result in the difficult situation of refugees to obtain some of the documents required for the legal marriage and would create barriers for refugees to be legally married in Indonesia

Do refugees who married religiously with Indonesian citizens automatically be considered Indonesian citizens?
No, refugees who married religiously with Indonesian citizens do not automatically become Indonesian citizens.

In the case of foreigners who marry in Indonesia, they can apply and obtain Indonesian citizenship through a naturalization process. The requirements required for a naturalization process under the Article 9 letter g of the Law No. 12 of 2006 regarding the Citizenship of Indonesia are:
a) Aged 18 (considered as an adult) or be married
b) When the time of the application, the applicant must already reside in Indonesia for
minimum of 5 years continuously or minimum of 10 years not continuously
c) Healthy both physically and mentally
d) Able to speak Bahasa Indonesia and acknowledge Pancasila and UUD 1945
e) Never been criminalize for conducting any criminal act with a minimum sentence of 1
year or more
f) If obtained the Indonesian citizenship, the applicant will not have a dual citizenship
g) Have an occupation and fixed salary
h) Pay a citizenship money to the Indonesia

According to these requirements, there are 2 points of requirements that will be difficult to be fulfilled by the refugees. First, refugees are not always residing in Indonesia for a minimum of 5 years continuously as they await their resettlement to the third country. Also, this provision was made to provide for the foreigners who have planned to live in Indonesia for a long period. While the refugees are here in Indonesia temporarily, as they may be moving to another country in the future.

Second, in accordance with these articles, it requires every applicant to have an occupationbefore they obtain Indonesian citizenship. Refugees defined by the Government of Indonesia as“illegal immigrants”, have obligations and prohibitions based on the Statement Letter Form attached to the Directorate General of Immigration Regulation No. IMI-1489.UM.08.05 of 2010 regarding the Handling of Illegal Immigrants. These include the obligation to comply with Indonesian regulations including can’t look for work and get wages. Beside the prohibitions and obligations that disadvantage the refugees, we do also note that the mention of refugees as “illegal immigrants” creates further disadvantages for refugees here in Indonesia. It’s important further if the term “illegal” be replaced with another term that is more inclusive.

As pointed out above, refugees are not allowed to have occupation or have wages while they are in Indonesia. Therefore, it would be difficult for refugees to fulfill these criteria in order to obtain Indonesian citizenship through a naturalization process.

Thus, it will be really difficult for refugees to successfully obtain Indonesian citizenship through this article. Further, as of now, refugees can’t obtain any rights protected as an Indonesian citizen, for example a right to administrative documents such as NIK, birth certificates for children, or other administrative documents as Indonesian citizens. Refugees have their own mechanism to obtain some of those administrative documents.

Can a child born from a refugee parent in Indonesia register for a birth certificate in Indonesia?
No, there are difficulties for refugees in collecting documents required to obtain birth certificates in Indonesia.

In the case of a marriage between foreigners and Indonesian citizens, the child born from the couples has a right of Indonesian citizenship according to the Law No. 23 of 2006 regarding Population Administration. Until 18 years old, s/he can have dual citizenship of both Indonesia and foreign citizenship from their parents. Between 18 to 21 years old, the child has to choose only one citizenship between Indonesian or those foreign citizenship. If the child has an Indonesian nationality from one of their parents, s/he can obtain a birth certificate, there are documents that need to be fulfilled to register for a birth certificate according to the Article 52 para. (2) of the Presidential Regulation No. 25 of 2008. Those documents are:

  • Birth notification/Surat Keterangan Kelahiran from a doctor
  • The name or the identity of the witnesses of the birth (also includes ID Card)
  • Family card
  • Parents ID card
  • Parents’ marriage certificate
  • Attestation letter from RT/RW

As a consequence of a religious marriage, the children’s birth certificate can only state the mother’s name on the birth certificate if the mother in the related marriage is an Indonesian citizen. Further, it is stated in the Ministry of Internal Affairs Regulation No. 9 of 2016 that every child born from any religious marriage can register for a birth certificate with a fulfillment of various documents such as:

  • ID Card of both parents
  • Family card
  • Birth notification from a hospital or “Surat Keterangan Pernyataan Tanggung Jawab
    Mutlak (SKPTJM)” if there are no birth notification
  • Letter of religious marriage statement from any religious leaders

Different with the case of marriage between foreigners and Indonesian citizen, according to Article 51 para. 2 of Presidential Regulation No. 25 of 2008 any children born from a marriage between foreigners can register for a birth certificate with documents requires as follows:

  • Birth notification/Surat Keterangan Kelahiran from a doctor
  • Parents’ marriage certificate
  • Family card and ID Card for foreigners who has KITAP or residence certificate for
    foreigners who has KITAS
  • Passports of parents who hold visit permit
  • Attestation letter from RT/RW

From all of these legal bases, there is no explicit distinction between documented foreigners and refugees. However right now, the circumstances circling around refugees and the government’s position regarding refugees may result in difficulties for refugees in attaining any documents required for registering a birth certificate. However, there are legal basis that can support children from refugee parents in obtaining birth certificates or other administrative documents. The Government of Indonesia has passed a Presidential Regulation No. 62 of 2019 regarding the National Strategy to Accelerate Population Administration for the Development of Biological Statistics to accelerate the civil registration for a “special group”, which includes the child born from mixed marriage between refugees and Indonesian citizens. Therefore, there are big possibilities for major improvements on the access to a birth certificate for children born from refugee parents in Indonesia.

Social Cohesion

What is social cohesion?
In sociological terms, social cohesion is usually defined as the extent to which bonds within a group or society foster trust among strangers, willingness to cooperate, and confidence in institutions. However, there is much variation in the ways that cohesion is defined. Some see it as a function of shared values and identity. Others define it as a measure of inclusivity and acceptance of diversity. The relationship between the presence of refugees and locals’ social 2 networks can be discussed in various ways.

Social cohesion requires strong social relations, a feeling of connectedness, orientation towards the common good, and equality. It also possesses economic, social, political, and cultural dimensions. Furthermore, social cohesion extends horizontally within and across groups and vertically, from people to their leaders, at local and national levels. Indonesian has a motto of Bhineka Tunggal Ika that celebrates diversity and accepts differences, hence why social cohesion is an important element to increase the awareness of Indonesian citizens of the vulnerability of refugees for them to understand, empathize, and be willing to help.

What usually happens during the process of social cohesion?

  • When refugees come to Indonesia, most of the Indonesian community are not yet aware of the situation of refugees and why they came to Indonesia. Therefore, they might not understand how to act towards refugees. In addition, the refugees themselves also do not understand the culture that exists in Indonesian society, so it is difficult for them to socialize. In this situation, refugees are encouraged to avoid assumptions and be open to understanding each other.
  • While some kinds of interactions between refugees and hosts may provide an opportunity for new relationships to develop, some interactions can increase tensions and raise the prospects of inter-communal conflict. In creating a conducive situation, things that need to be considered are inclusiveness, cooperation, sense of belonging, trust, and strong positive relationships overall.

What can the refugee do to foster social cohesion?

  • Refugees are encouraged to be open and avoid assumptions. It is advised that refugees should not assume that all Indonesian citizens understand who refugees are and why they have come to Indonesia. Instead, explaining the specific situation as to why refugees exist will create a room for discussion between refugees and Indonesian society, avoiding misunderstanding and negative assumptions from both sides. With the interaction and participation of refugees in Indonesian activities, communication will occur between them.
  • Refugees also need to increase sensitivity to the culture in the communities where they live in order to adapt.
  • Considering that language barrier is a primary obstacle to social cohesion between refugees and local communities, refugees are suggested to learn Indonesian language, starting from the sentences used in daily conversation. Capability to speak Bahasa Indonesia will help refugees to:
    ➢ Be involved in basic social discussions that could enable a rapprochement between
    ➢ Increase the capacity to educate oneself on rights afforded by the government to
    refugees and rights owed
    ➢ Improve their understanding in effectively accessing services provided in Indonesia.

What can the refugee community do to blend in with the local communities?

  • Refugees can contribute in a wide range of ways (socially, economically, etc.) to the local communities. At a social level, by helping to build an environment in which positive interactions are more likely to take place.
  • Refugees can show their abilities to the Indonesian community, for example, regarding simple things in daily life. The local communities that recognize refugees’ potential can make a positive contribution to send an important message that can make their presence welcomed. This recognition can encourage refugees to interact more (due to a perceived greater likelihood of receiving a positive reaction when they try to do this).
  • Amongst both refugees and the local communities, it can also help to counter the many negative portrayals of refugees that are prevalent in the media (and often exacerbated by groups who use refugees as scapegoats, by blaming them for a wide range of perceived negative changes in society).

What should we do if there is a conflict between Indonesian and refugees?
In social life, friction between people in the same neighborhood commonly happens. Friction which usually comes up as the result of interaction -or even without interaction, amongst neighbors. It’s a normal thing as not all humans have the same thought and action. In dispute settlement, some people will immediately think of taking legal action. But in the context of refugees in Indonesia, legal action is not necessarily the best solution. There are Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that can be explored in dispute settlement.
● Negotiation
Negotiation is the most basic means of settling differences. It is back-and-forth communication between the parties of the conflict with the goal of trying to find a solution.
● Mediation
Mediation is a voluntary process in which an impartial person (the mediator) helps with communication and promotes reconciliation between the parties which will allow them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation often is the next step if negotiation proves unsuccessful. Related to this, refugees can ask for help from the Refugee Representatives, community paralegals, or the head of the area such as Ketua RT or Ketua RW.
● Conciliation
Conciliation is an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process whereby the parties to a dispute use a conciliator, who meets with the parties both separately and together in an attempt to resolve their differences. They do this by lowering tensions, improving communications, interpreting issues, encouraging parties to explore potential solutions and assisting parties in finding a mutually acceptable outcome. Related to this, refugees can ask for help from the Refugee Representatives, community paralegals, organizations that they trust with, and the head of the area such as Ketua RT or Ketua RW.

This FAQ is in collaboration of SUAKA and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)

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