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The essay is a critical examination of Indonesia and its relationship with asylum seekers and refugees particularly from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries which have experienced political unrest in the recent past. To accomplish this task, a brief history of the country and apartheid, the country’s relationship with asylum seekers and refugees and finally the current situation are succinctly covered.
History of Indonesia and apartheid
According Pickering, 2004 the country is 2 million km2 in size. The capital city is Jakarta. The country has very large islands made up of costal plain while the climate country is equatorial, however the highlands are cooler. The population was estimated to be 237.6 million with an annual growth rate of 2.7%. The major ethnic groups are Javanese, Sundanese, Mudurese, and Minangkkabau among others.
The official language is Indonesian (Dauvergne, 2003). The government type is independent republic and the constitution embodies the following principles, national unity, social justice, humanitarianism, representative democracy by consensus and monotheism.
The country’s economy is driven by manufacturing, trade exports, agriculture, and natural resources among others sectors. Indonesia invaded west Papua in 1961 resulting to the Dutch surrendering the power they had over the region to Indonesia. The natives were killed. According to Phillip, 2011 par. 3
[The apartheid against the West Papuans, contemporary Ahl al-Dhimma [dhimmis], is but one of the latest incarnations of Political Islam’s enmity towards, disenfranchisement of, and sanguinary impulse against kuffar in Southeast Asia, egregiously ignored by and excused by the-world-at-large because of the identity of the victimizers and the identity of the victims…]
Refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia
Like most of the Asian region, Indonesia has been home to thousand of refugees and asylum seekers. However, the country is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convection. This means that asylum seekers and refugees are not given any attention from the government. It is the responsibility of UNHCR to provide protection and assist refugees during registration, get housing, food as well as trying to establish a lasting solution.
Since the country lacks legal framework to deal with refugees and asylum seekers, the state continue seeing this group of people as illegal immigrant and they are put in detention (Loescher, 2001).
While under detention it is evident that asylum seekers and refugees are not provided with suitable shelter, food and clothing. Since the detention centers have been overwhelmed by the swelling numbers of this group of people, 6 people are placed in a room that is supposed to accommodate 2 (Papastergiadis, 2004).
Most of refugees and asylum seekers who are in Indonesia usually plan to go to Australia. However, they are met with serious challenges such as boat capsizing, threat of deportation among others. In 2011 a boat carrying 200 passanger capsized leaving dozen dead while a few were rescued. There are incidences where those in detentions are tortured by police officers who are supposed to protect them (Philip, 2011).
Right of refugees and states sovereignty
The host country of asylum seekers has the primary responsibility determining refugee status. Thus a country is responsible of identifying those in need of international protection and enjoys the entitlements attached to the refugee status (United Nations High Commission for Refugees 2000).
The state is given this responsibility in order to maintain and exercise national security, as they vet the asylum seekers. However, the state cannot return any person where his or her life is in danger and this is known as the principle of non-refoulment (Aoun 2002).
This principle covered by the 1951 Act is binding to all states including those that were not party to the 1951 convention. To ensure that the asylum seeker is given fair representation UNHCR participates in the determination process in various positions (Aoun 2002). Asylum seekers and refugees have a right to be provided with security, food, medication, clothing and shelter.
According to Green, 2004 it is evident that Indonesia is currently experiencing a serious increase in refugees and asylum seekers. Records show that from 2009, the first 8 months saw the country register over 1,300 Afghanistan asylum seekers.
Compared to the previous year (2008), these number accounts for about 920% increase. Considering the fact that only a handful gets registered, many more have found their way into the country without the knowledge of the authorities.
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Currently Afghanistan’s are the majority accounting for over 60.0% of asylum seekers. Matters got worse since Pakistan’s political stability weakened making Afghans who were there to seek safer grounds (Loescher, 2001).
Indonesia has been overwhelmed by the surging refugees’ numbers. The detention centers are overcrowded and the country does not have enough financial resources. Although new centers are being constructed, they are not enough to handle refugees and asylum seekers.
For this reason, the country has called upon the international community to intervene. Through UNHCR, there are plans to build national capacity to take on more asylum responsibility though countrywide training sessions (IRIN, 2012; par. 5).
From the review of refuges and asylum seekers in Indonesia, it is evident that political unrest in Afghanistan and recently in Pakistan has worsened the situation since thousands of individuals are feeing to safer grounds, Indonesia.
However, the country is not party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and refugees are not given state recognition and help. The country has called upon the international community to help in addressing the issue.
Aoun, I. 2002, Different Art Forms, Mutual Concerns. New York: Rockefeller Foundation.
Dauvergne, C 2003. ‘Challenges to sovereignty: migration laws for the 21st century’. New Issues in Refugee Research. Working Paper No. 92. UNHCR Evaluation and policy Analysis Unit. Web.
Green, L 2004. ‘Bordering on the inconceivable: The Pacific solution, the migration zone, and ‘Australia’s 9/11’, Australian Journal of Communication, vol. 31 no.1, pp, 19-36.
IRIN, 2012, Indonesia: Influx of Afghan asylum-seekers stretches resources. Web.
Loescher, G 2001, ‘The UNHCR and world politics: State interests vs. institutional autonomy’, International Migration Review, vol. 31 no. 1, pp. 33-56.
Papastergiadis, N 2004, ‘The invasion complex in Australian political culture’, Thesis Eleven, vol. 78 no.3, pp. 8-27.
Philip, D 2011, The Apartheid That Dare Not Be Named… Web.
Pickering, S 2004, ‘The production of sovereignty and the rise of transversal policing: People-smuggling and federal policing’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 37 no.3, pp. 362-379.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees. 2000, The State of the World’s Refugees, 2000: Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.