Jakarta authorities kick out refugees

UN refugee agency told to remove 1,500 people from temporary shelter, but more than 500 are refusing to budge
Jakarta authorities kick out refugees

Public Order Agency officers monitor UNHCR workers prepare to remove refugees from a temporary shelter in Jakarta. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

More than 500 refugees in the Indonesian capital Jakarta are refusing to leave a temporary shelter in an ex-military building after being given their marching orders by city authorities.

They say they will remain despite having had their electricity and water cut off since Aug. 31.

The Jakarta city council had told them to leave the building in the city’s Kalideres district by Aug. 31 and that it was the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to remove them.

The refugees have been at the site since July after camping out outside the UNHCR offices to demand a place to stay.

"This is now in the hands of the UNHCR. We've [the city government] provided the temporary shelter to help them," the Jakarta Globe news website quoted Jakarta city council secretary Saefullah as saying.

Saefullah, like many Indonesians only goes by one name.

Although, some of the 1,500 people living at the site began leaving in buses provided by the UNHCR on Sept. 1, there was no designated place for them to go and were reportedly being advised to find temporary shelter wherever they could.

This prompted others still at the site to remain where they are.

However, a UNHCR worker, who did not wish to be named, told ucanews.com that refugees were to be moved to temporary shelters in Bogor in West Java and in Tebet and Kalibata in South Jakarta.

The U.N. agency has reportedly offered the refugees up to 2 million rupiah (US$141) each depending on their circumstances to leave, but the refugee say the amount is not enough.

"It will not even enough to buy our daily needs for a month,” said Hasym, 24, from Afghanistan, who has been in Indonesia for six years waiting to be resettled in a third country.

“We don’t want the money. We want justice.… It doesn’t matter if we sleep here in this dark, smelly place, being bitten by mosquitoes.”

Abdullah, 52, a Somalian, his wife, and his three children also preferred to remain in the building.

"We will not move out. It’s not a big problem if we sleep on the floor and there are no lights,” he said.

Gading Gumilang Putra, National Legal Liaison Officer of the Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia said the organization would continue to try to offer help, including to those who had already vacated the building.

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“In this situation, where there are so many refugees, we can only support the most vulnerable families,” he said.

According to UNHCR, there are more than 14,000 refugees in Indonesia — mainly from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan — half of them are in Jakarta.

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