Solutions Sought as RI Braces for Possible Influx of Refugees

29 December, 2011 | Source: ANTARA News

Indonesia is currently hosting at least 3,660 foreign refugees and it is expected that the figure will continue to rise following the government’s plan to relax its visa policy for four countries on the immigration red list.

The immigration office has recorded Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Myanmar and Pakistan as the biggest sources of refugees trying to reach Australia.

Data from the office says Afghanistan is the biggest source of immigrants, with 2,008 refugees having been identified as Afghans. Sri Lanka is the second biggest sender of refugees, Iran is also a major source of asylum seekers.

The government, meanwhile, is planning to ease visa processing for Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, four out of the 13 countries on Indonesia’s immigration red list. Citizens of the 13 countries are regarded as having potential to create trouble for Indonesian law enforcers and intelligence officers.

“If the decision is aimed at boosting the tourism sector, it is okay because this means higher revenue for Indonesia but we should also be aware of other aspects of the applicants,” Immigration directorate general Bambang Irawan said here on Tuesday.

He said his office would not automatically assume visitors from Sri Lanka or Bangladesh were seeking asylum or were illegal immigrants.

“But, we will take action if we find them breaking the rules, as we would [with people] from other countries,” he said.

Bambang said he tried to be optimistic in response to the decision to ease the visa process, although there were many cases involving illegal immigrants and asylum seekers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

“The decision was based on [explanations from] the Indonesian ambassadors in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They know the countries well. So, why shouldn’t we believe them?”

He acknowledged that controlling people from those countries was not easy, but the office did have its mechanisms. For example, its online system will help immigration officers to locate people who enter Indonesia no matter where they arrive.

Refugees and asylum seekers stuck in Indonesia are now under the review of the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), waiting to be transported to other countries but without a clear time frame.

National Commission for Human Rights deputy chairman for external affairs Nurcholis, meanwhile, said he was concerned with the lack of “constructive” solutions in addressing refugee and asylum seeker issues.

He said Indonesia couldn’t possibly handle the matter alone, and that Australia as the destination country also had to take responsibility.

“Many of them [refugees and asylum seekers] are in a pathetic condition and are stuck in Indonesia, while we’re not able or capable enough to handle them,” said Nurcholis, who paid several visits to an asylum seeker shelter in Merak, Banten.

“It is time for us to send a note of protest to Australia. I’ve seen no constructive solution from them. We also must discuss this issue with the UNHCR,” he added.

The Foreign Ministry said recently that the government wanted a regional solution under the Bali Process, involving all source, transit and recipient countries to tackle asylum seeker issues.


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