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// Refugees

Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia

There are around 10,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia. Indonesia is not a party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugees Convention) or the 1967 Protocol. Asylum seekers and refugees (and stateless people) here face difficulties staying in the country.

Asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia are not permitted to work and receive no social benefits from the Government of Indonesia. The Government of Indonesia allows them to stay here while they have current registration documents from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


The words “refugee” and “asylum seeker” have legal definitions at international law as well as in the Law on Foreign Relations and the Indonesian Constitution. There is no excuse to generalize all undocumented immigrants as “illegal”.

“Asylum Seekers” is the term generally used for people who wish to make an application for refugee status to the Office of the UNHCR claiming that they need international protection on the grounds set out in Article 1A of the Refugees Convention. Those grounds include persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. People claiming asylum will have to flee their home countries because they are in fear of persecution and severe human rights violations, including torture or systematic discrimination.

Asylum seekers are not “illegal migrants” merely because they do not possess the correct passports and visas. Some people who may need to make an application for refugee status have never had papers or even the opportunity to obtain them. For example, if someone is born stateless or to an ethnic group that is not recognized by a state, where they have been systematically discriminated against, they may have been unable to get a birth certificate or any form of identification, let alone a passport or visas.

Others who may be on political watch lists may not be able to escape under their own names. Each case is different, and, in Indonesia, the UNHCR is responsible for assessing each claim for refugee status by registered asylum seekers. [source]


Some people may be “stateless” in accordance to international law because they are not considered as a national by any state. UNHCR notes that although stateless people may sometimes also be refugees, the two categories have separate legal characteristics. UNHCR considers both groups as persons of concern. [source]

While Indonesia is not a party to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons nor the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, UNHCR in Indonesia is working with the Government of Indonesia on this issue. [source]

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