The Guardian • Issue #2059

Stranded in poverty

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2059
Refugee children at a shelter in Tangerang, Indonesia.

Refugee children at a shelter in Tangerang, Indonesia. Photo: Ybl yikimeida – (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Hundreds of refugees, mostly Afghan and Sudanese, staged protests on World Refugee Day on 20th June in cities across Indonesia to demand resettlement after years of being stranded in poverty. There were protests in Pekanbaru, Batam City, Makassar and Medan. Protesters disrupted official World Refugee Day celebrations to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Indonesian authorities.

Some of the biggest protests of recent weeks were seen in Makassar where Afghan and Sudanese refugees joined forces outside UNHCR offices and the Australian consulate.

Protests have been growing in Indonesia over the last few months as refugees face cost of living increases that have driven them further into poverty as. IOM allowances (paid by Australia) have been frozen since 2018.

Refugees who have arrived in Indonesia since 2018 are deprived of income support or accommodation. The Albanese Labor government is maintaining the 2014 Morrison government ban on accepting UNHCR refugees from Indonesia.

On World Refugee Day Immigration Minister Andrew Giles bragged about fulfilling Australia’s 2023 humanitarian quota. The quota has not been increased since Labor took office. It remains at just 13,750 places. Labor says it is committed to increase the quota to 27,000.

Giles boasted that refugees included in the humanitarian program this year includes 7900 Afghans. Yet has done nothing to assist 7000 Afghan refugees stranded in Indonesia by Australia’s ban.

“Labor must lift the ban on Indonesian refugees,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition, “and it must increase the allowance paid to refugees stranded by Australia’s ban.

“Indonesia has been warehousing refugees in Indonesia just as it used Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG) for offshore detention. Giles says Labor is committed to “safe, legal pathway. But refugees need more than words. Giles can make good on Labor’s claim and end Australia’s shameful ban and create a pathway for Indonesian refugees.”

Rallies to demand an end to offshore detention, permanent visas for all, and an end to the Indonesia ban will be held around Australia in July to mark the 10th anniversary of 19th July 2013, when the Rudd Labor government announced the Pacific Solution II and banned refugees sent to PNG and Nauru from permanently settling in Australia.

Meanwhile, around 50 people held a protest at Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation (BITA) on 11th June. The protest called for the release of Hamid, an Iranian refugee brought from Nauru to Australia in February this year.

Hamid had been held on Nauru for over nine years. But, while other refugees and asylum seekers, similarly transferred from Nauru, have been released, usually within a week or two of their transfer, Hamid remains in detention four months later.

Since 2019, Hamid has been cruelly separated from his two adult children when Peter Dutton refused to transfer Hamid to Australia with his children, under the Medevac laws. Despite representation to the Labor government on Hamid’s behalf, there has been no explanation for the continued separation of the family or Hamid’s detention.

From over 70 people in December last year, there are just 13 refugees left on Nauru. Labor has progressively transferred them to Australia, yet they are paying the notorious detention company MTC, $420 million for garrison services until September 2025.

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713.

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