Refugee relocation sparks protests from Jakarta residents

Indonesian community expresses outrage after 1,500 people are rehoused in their midst without warning
Refugee relocation sparks protests from Jakarta residents

Refugee children wait for food provided by Indonesian authorities at an ex-military building in West Jakarta on July 15. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

Residents in West Jakarta are up in arms over an Indonesian government move to relocate more than 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers to an old military building in their neighborhood, saying they pose a threat to the community

Around 1,500 people were relocated on July 13 after they had camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Jakarta for two weeks to demand better treatment from the U.N. refugee agency.

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

The relocation has sparked protests from residents in the Daan Mogot community who say such a large number of refugees thrust upon them on their doorstep could pose a threat to their safety.

Banners were put up around the building that said the refugees were not wanted.

"The authorities did not discuss this with us first. They turned up one day out of the blue,” one of the protesting residents who identified himself only as Edy told ucanews.com. 

He said the building they are in is too small for their number and lacks facilities. This would almost certainly make them frustrated and angry, which could lead to friction with the local community, he added.

Three Pakistani refugees walk past a banner rejecting their presence that was put up by local people on a fence at an ex-military building where they are living in West Jakarta on Jul 15. The banner reads 'Daan Mogot residents reject the relocation of immigrants in our community.' (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

 

Another resident, Warsa, 50, who usually sells fruit outside the building, said several families would not be a problem but there were way too many as far as local people were concerned.

"My main concern is that they can disrupt the activities of students as there are several schools in the area,” he said. “We are afraid they will cause new problems for us.” 

Ahmad, 34, an Afghan refugee, said he felt disheartened by how local people feel.

“We came here because the government and UNHCR told us to live here,” he said. “There was no other choice,” he said, adding that they would respect local people.

“We will try and keep a low profile and not cause any problems. It’s stressful living here but it's better than being on the streets, so we have to accept it. The UNHCR needs to find a better solution for us,” he said,

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Irmansyah, a local government official, said food, water, tents, mats, medicine and clothes are being provided for the refugees.

“But we have asked them to remain on the base and not wander around in the streets to avoid clashes with local residents,” he said.

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