November 02, 2012
Indonesia’s immigration detention boss has scoffed at the idea that Australia’s asylum seeker policies will stop people getting on boats.
It comes as officials in west Java prepare to round up hundreds of asylum seekers because of cultural clashes.
Indonesia’s head of immigration enforcement, Djoni Muhammad, estimates there are 100,000 asylum seekers across the region who want to leave for Australia.
He says sending asylum seekers offshore and increasing the refugee intake will not deter them, even if processing times are sped up.
“It’s a dilemma really. If the asylum seekers in Indonesia got sent there sooner, it would just be like an advertisement,” he told AM.
“Other people waiting in Malaysia and other places would immediately come here saying ‘it’s good in Indonesia; it’s a much swifter process there’.”
The latest United Nations figures show more than 6,000 asylum seekers are in Indonesia.
Australia has vowed to resettle about 600 of those with UN refugee status as part of an increased annual refugee intake announced earlier this year.
But Mr Muhammad says Australia still has not fulfilled its quota of 200 people from Indonesia last year.
He says that is because Australia refuses to take some recognised refugees.
“The problem is the old quota wasn’t met and we can’t just send them,” he said.
“The people who already have refugee status still have to meet the requirements from the accepting country to be able to get resettled.
“So not every refugee can get resettled in a third country.”
A UN source has told AM that Australia does not want to resettle Somalis, single men, or unaccompanied children.
Meanwhile the number of asylum seekers travelling via Indonesia is upsetting locals.
About an hour out of Jakarta, the town of Bogor has become a haven for asylum seekers on their way to the Java coast and beyond to Australia.
But Mr Muhammad says the locals have begun to protest against their new neighbours.
“Because at the very simple level, their customs and culture are different,” he said.
“For example, most of them go to sleep at 3.00am, so at night they play soccer and make noise chatting away.
“And also it’s a male thing. These men meet local women, so things happen and fights break out.
“That’s all that’s happened.”
After the threat of anarchy from residents, the director-general of immigration, Bambang Irawan, has signed an order to round up the asylum seekers and move them on.
But authorities have to find them and a place to take them.
At least 470 asylum seekers are known to be in Bogor and Mr Muhammad says there could be up to 2,000.
“In the end it’s not an easy problem to solve. We don’t have the facilities, and we only have 13 immigration detention centres,” he said.
“At the moment immigration is looking into finding some locations but after what’s happened in Bogor, we are now being careful.
“We need approval from the local authorities first.”
He says the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Refugee Agency are helping.
The IOM wouldn’t comment on its involvement, but the UNHCR’s Jakarta office gave a statement to the ABC.
“Authorities are indeed concerned with the situation as a result of local protests against the number of foreign nationals living in that province, including a large number of refugees and asylum seekers,” the statement said.
“The UNHCR has put itself at the disposal of the government of Indonesia should the authorities decide to take any particular measures to address the current situation.”
As another sign that Indonesia expects asylum seekers to keep coming, it plans to build three more immigration detention centres.