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Indonesia sees higher number of refugees

Publication Date : 09-05-2014


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on Thursday that a growing number of refugees and asylum seekers from various countries had been stranded in Indonesian territory over the past six years.

Based on UNHCR data in 2008, the number of asylum seekers stranded in the country stood at 385 people, but that rose sharply to 3,230 people the following year. The number has continued to rise from year to year, with 3,965 people in 2010, 4,052 people in 2011, 7,218 people in 2012 and 8,332 people in 2013.

“As of March this year, 10,623 refugees and asylum seekers arrived in Indonesia. The number will most likely [continue to] rise until the end of the year,” UNHCR associate external relations officer Mitra Salima Suyono said in Medan, North Sumatra, on Thursday.

Mitra added that most of the asylum seekers and refugees who had arrived in Indonesia this year were from Afghanistan, which has contributed 36 per cent of total refugee numbers and 44 per cent of asylum seekers. The country was followed by Myanmar (23 per cent refugees, 8 per cent asylum seekers), Iran (14 per cent asylum seekers), Somalia (9 per cent refugees) and Sri Lanka (8 per cent refugees and 7 per cent asylum seekers).

In general, Mitra went on, refugees and asylum seekers from various countries used Indonesia as a transit point before setting off to destination countries, commonly Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

The current number of refugees worldwide amounted to 15.4 million people, while there were 937,000 asylum seekers, she said.

Mitra claimed that the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia formally sent to destination countries was still small.

“Last year, the UNHCR sent 800 refugees from Indonesia to Australia and New Zealand. This year, the UNHCR has arranged to send some of the refugees to [destination] countries, but this is still pending due to delays in administrative processes,” she added.

For years, Indonesia has been a transit point for asylum seekers hoping to travel to Australia on fishing boats. More than 1,000 asylum-seekers have died at sea in recent years while attempting the journey.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pledged to stem the flow of asylum seekers and has implemented tough border protection policies since taking office last year. Since his policies have come into force, many boatloads of asylum seekers have been turned around by the Australian navy.

Such actions have angered the Indonesian government, which has called on the Australian government to stop “shifting responsibility” for asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, three Somali nationals and one Sudanese man filed a report with the North Sumatra Police on Wednesday, claiming that they were cheated by smugglers as they were about to leave for Australia.

The four have been identified as Saeed Ali Tama Mohamed, 22, Aisha Kahin Yusuf Allaale, 40, and Istahel Abdirahman Saeed, 24, from Somalia, as well as Ali Mohamad Harun, 28, from Sudan.

North Sumatra Police’s crime and intelligence director Sr. Comr. Dedi Irianto said on Thursday that police had handed the four foreign citizens over to the Polonia Immigration Office in Medan.

Dedi added that, based on statements from the four, the group intended to go to Australia using the services of people smugglers. However, when they arrived in North Sumatra, Dedi said, they were abandoned at a hotel.

“The foreigners claim they have been cheated. They used the services of smugglers, [paying] between US$3,000 and $4,000 to be taken from Malaysia to Christmas Island, Australia. However, during transit in North Sumatra, they were left behind,” said Dedi.


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