Monday, February 8, 2010

Indonesia facing emerging refugee crisis

There's an interesting in-depth report on Indonesia's emerging refugee crisis in today's edition of the Jakarta Globe (only a short version appears to be online).

The story, by Putri Prameshwari, reveals that the number of illegal immigrants seeking sanctuary in Indonesia surged last year to 2,504, up from 369 in the previous year. These official figures from the immigration department probably include only a fraction of the thousands of boat people and other refugees who arrive in Indonesia each year.

Most of the refugees come from Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka. As one of the region's few genuine democracies, and with vast, porous sea-borders, Indonesia is a relatively attractive destination. As a majority Muslim nation, it also has a particular pull for Muslim refugees.

Indonesia has in the past extended the hand of friendship to some of those fleeing conflicts and political repression. When a group of Burmese permanent residents were booted out of Singapore after protesting outside the Myanmar embassy during the Saffron uprising in 2007, Indonesia took some of them in rather than allow them to be deported to Burma, where they would have faced likely imprisonment.

But, according to officials who have spoken to the Globe, Indonesia, with its limited resources and plentiful social existing problems, is struggling to deal with the rising tide of refugees.

All of this begs the question of what responsibilities developing countries have to look after refugees.

Most Southeast Asian nations insist that they cannot afford to take in refugees - even wealthy Singapore. Only Cambodia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste have signed the UN's refugee conventions.

That's understandable. But, if large developing countries such as Indonesia want to have a greater say on the world stage, they will increasingly have to accept that if they want more global rights and a bigger voice, then they must take on more responsibilities.

Disclosure: I'm currently working as an editor at the Globe.

1 comment:

  1. Aren't you(honoured) glad Singapore kicked you out? Fuck the 1st world and deveploed countries...and their responsiblities and talk of human rights. Why is this refugee crissis the responsibility of Indonesia SOLELY, why don't you ask down under and west to pick up some of these refugees?.
    "global rights and a bigger voice" are minomers.