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Refugees set up protest camp outside UNHCR office in Jakarta

Demand UN agency speed up years-long resettlement process, better support while they wait

Refugees set up protest camp outside UNHCR office in Jakarta

Ahmad, 31, from Sudan holds his daughter at a makeshift camp outside the UNHCR office in Jakarta, Indonesia on July 4. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com)

More than 200 refugees have encamped themselves outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Jakarta and are refusing to budge until the U.N. agency improves their living conditions and speeds up the resettlement process.

The refugees, mainly from Somalia, Afghanistan, and Sudan have been sleeping rough in front of the U.N. building for the past week.

They say the agency is dragging its feet in getting them resettled, while in the meantime they are being left to fend for themselves and live in temporary shelters with no food, water, money or healthcare.

The protesters, who include about 30 children, want the agency to speed up the resettlement process, provide better housing, healthcare and funds to meet their daily needs.

According to UNHCR, there are more than 14,000 refugees — from countries that also include Myanmar, Iraq, Kenya, and Ethiopia — currently in Indonesia, half of them in Jakarta.

Ahmad, 31, a Sudanese man who came with his wife and their 4-month-old daughter to the protest site, said he fled civil war in his country.

“I’ve been in Indonesia five years. We eat only once a day and sleep in a tent near a main road in West Jakarta,” he told ucanews.com.

“I am here [at the protest] to demand that the UNHCR help us,” he said, adding that he and his family have to rely on the charity of Indonesian people to survive each day.

He said his status as a refugee stops him doing even the smallest job in Indonesia.

“We will live and sleep outside the U.N. office until the UNHCR responds to our demands,” he said.

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Similarly, Abdul Kadir, 50, from Afghanistan, along with his wife and two children, said they had been in Indonesia for two years.

He said his family, particularly his children, have to beg for food from Indonesian people, as the UNHCR and the Indonesian government do not help them.

“We are hungry all the time, particularly my children. I can’t return to my country because we will be killed,” he told ucanews.com.

He and his family also vowed to remain outside the UNHCR office.

Gading Gumilang Putra, a legal liaison officer with the Jesuit Refugees Service, which provides the refugees with some support, admitted that resettlement is frustratingly slow.

Declining resettlement options in third countries, globally means refugees face years, even decades of uncertain waiting, he said.

“We in the JRS encounter many refugees in this situation but are only able to support the most vulnerable and desperate,” he said.

He said the JRS has been trying to help by providing money, food, and other daily needs.

“We hope that there will be a clearer policy and better law on refugee protection in Indonesia,” Putra said.

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