Govt Urged to Find Uninhabited Island for UNHCR Office



Petir Garda Bhwana

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The Indonesian government could find an uninhabited island for a new office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to process the would-be refugees administratively, an international law professor said.

    "It takes months, if not years, to screen and verify whether the would-be refugees could be accepted as refugees," said Hikmahanto Juwana of University of Indonesia (UI) in Jakarta on Tuesday.

    Moreover, third countries that received refugees to seek asylum, such as Australia, European countries and the United States, have restricted the number of asylum seekers, he said.

    It is the right of the countries to restrict the number of asylum seekers. However, the move has led to the concentration of refugees which financially burdens the Indonesian government, he said.

    In fact, Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 Vienna Convention concerning refugees. Hence, it is not obliged to take care of them, except on humanitarian grounds.

    Data from the Indonesian Social Affairs Ministry show some 1,100 refugees are being sheltered at the Kalideres military district in West Jakarta. The Indonesian government has shouldered the burden of providing for them.

    Therefore, the government should find an uninhabited island to move the refugees to, in order to register them at the expense of the UNHCR and international community, he said.

    In addition, the Foreign Ministry could write to the UNHCR asking it to remove its office to outside Jakarta.

    "The refugees came to Indonesia because they want to visit the UNHCR office in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta," he said.

    By removing the UNHCR office to outside Jakarta, the refugees entering Indonesia could be escorted to the UNHCR office on the uninhabited island, he said.