Refugees in Indonesia protest slow UN resettlement process

AP News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2017 2:21 AM
Refugees in Indonesia protest slow UN resettlement process

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Asylum seekers who have been in Indonesia for years rallied in the capital on Monday urging the U.N. refugee agency to speed up the process of resettling them in third countries.

Dozens of people from war-torn nations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia called on the UNHCR to accelerate their resettlement, expressing concerns that they could no longer bear to live in limbo in Indonesia without jobs.

They waved banners reading "Refugees are human" and "Save us" during the rally at the refugee agency's office in Jakarta. Some chanted "Process, process!"

"Waiting for more than four years here without resettlement is absolutely terrible," said 19-year-old protester Mahdi Rezaee from Afghanistan, where scores of ethnic Hazaras like himself have been captured, tortured and killed by Islamic militants.

UNHCR officials in Jakarta could not be reached for comment.

Indonesia is home to nearly 14,000 men, women and children seeking resettlement in other countries, according to the UNHCR. About 7,500 have been recognized as refugees, giving them the prized U.N. card that inches them closer to realizing their dreams of a better life. But last year, just 610 were resettled in other countries such as the United States, Canada, Germany and New Zealand.

Another protester, 30-year-old Mohammed Akbar, who has held a U.N. refugee card for three years, said he is struggling to feed his family and still does not know when he will be resettled to another country.

Indonesia, a poor country of more than 250 million people, is not a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention, and the government does not allow asylum seekers to work or have access to schools and public hospitals.

Many asylum seekers fled to Indonesia as a jumping-off point to reach Australia by boat. But since 2013, the Australian government has sent the often barely seaworthy vessels back to Indonesian waters.