8 Facts about Jakarta's Asylum Seekers, UNHCR

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Petir Garda Bhwana

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The asylum seekers temporarily settled at a shelter located at the former building of the West Jakarta Military Command (Kodim) still await for a permanent solution from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as the Indonesian government and Jakarta administration says they could only offer help on humanitarian reasons.

    On the other hand, the sudden arrival of asylum seekers in the area’s neighborhood was understandably met with rejection by locals.

    The following are 8 facts regarding the situation:

    1. Relocated due to occupying public sidewalk

    The Jakarta administration decided to relocate the hundreds of asylum seekers from Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta, as they were deemed a disruption toward public facilities after they occupied parts of the area’s sidewalk. They were transported to the current location with a Transjakarta bus on July 11, 2019, monitored by the city’s Public Order Agency officers (Satpol PP) and Jakarta Council Head Prasetio Edi Marsudi.

    2. Daan Mogot residents’ rejections

    Residents of the Daan Mogot Baru complex rejected the asylum seekers, which is evident in more than one banner placed in several locations within the housing complex.

    They said the government did not inform residents there prior to the sudden mass relocation into their neighborhood. “They borrowed toilets at local businesses, which scared the owners, and is understandable as they are foreign citizens,” said local resident Chris (36) on Saturday, July 13.

    3. Illnesses starting to creep into the shelter

    A Doctor from the Kalideres Puskesmas (community health center) Cindy Sanders at the shelter said there are hundreds of asylum seekers getting treatment after being moved to Kalideres due to common colds, flu, diarrhea, and gastrointestinal infections. Some even had to be hospitalized.

    4. Complaints regarding shelter facilities

    Complaints are starting to come from asylum seekers regarding the shelter’s facilities as it is only able to properly accommodate around 300 people, which in reality must house over 1,000 people. “So you can imagine how we share the space there,” said Zakid (24), an Afghan asylum seeker on Monday.

    He says many people sleep without proper insulation on the floor and without pillows. Other than that, the portable toilets are also complained upon for the lack of water available. Many built their tents from previous locations at the shelter.

    5. The majority come from Afghanistan and intends to enter Australia

    The Indonesian Social Affairs Ministry released a data suggesting that the Daan Mogot asylum seekers amount to a total of 1,093 people with 750 from Afghanistan, 130 from Somalia, 70 Sudanese, 7 Iranians, 15 from Iraq, 50 from Pakistan, one from China, 30 from Ethiopia, and 40 from Yemen.

    The ministry’s director-general of protection Harry Hikmat said the asylum seekers have numerous country of destinations but the majority initially plan to seek asylum in Australia.

    6. Funding issue faces Jakarta Administration

    The city’s head of social issues agency Irmansyah said handling the issue of asylum seekers is faced with lack of funding as the city has not allocated a specific amount to accommodate the asylum seekers for more than one week. The UNHCR will be asked to accommodate the asylum seekers after that

    7. UNHCR providing zero solution

    Irmansyah maintained that his agency had already coordinated with the UNHCR as the organization that brought the asylum seekers. “Yesterday we asked the UNHCR and there was no solution. That was yesterday, in the field, up to this dawn there still seems to be none,” he said.

    8. Central government presses on the UNHCR

    Social Affair Ministry’s director-general of protection and social security Harry Hikmat said the government will pressure the UNHCR to produce a solution regarding the asylum seekers’ status.

    “Would they be returned home or relocated with the full support from the UNHCR or will they be diverted to the country they initially wanted to go to. As long as the country of destination has a place and can accommodate refugees,” he said on Monday, July 15.

    Harry maintained that Indonesia is only a country of transit and cannot legally accept the asylum seekers, that obligation he said is on the UNHCR.

    M YUSUF MANURUNG