A refugee and his daughter walk around Kebon Sirih in Central Jakarta where they have been living on the streets. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Specter of Human Trafficking Haunts Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia


AUGUST 13, 2019

Jakarta. Refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia are at risk of being used as a front for human trafficking syndicates, the Immigration Office said on Tuesday. 

"Human traffickers have been using refugees and asylum seekers as part of their operations. The Jakarta municipal police [Satpol PP] have already discovered refugees in a place where they should not be," Ronny F. Sompie, the director general of immigration at the Law and Human Rights Ministry, said in Jakarta.

Ronny was referring to a case earlier this month when police arrested two underage Afghan boys during a prostitution sting in Sawah Besar in Central Jakarta.

He said the Immigration Office is keeping a close eye on refugees and asylum seekers who have been involved in criminal offenses.


"According to a 2016 presidential decree... ministries, government agencies and regional administrations must work together to take care of refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia. The municipal police have the power to arrest those who are involved in crimes," Ronny said.

Refugees or asylum seekers who violate the law will be charged and brought to trial. 

"No one in Indonesia is above the law. They have to respect Indonesian law. We've conveyed this message to the UN Refugee Agency [UNHCR]," Ronny said.

Ronny also demanded better coordination between ministries, government agencies and regional administrations in their handling of the refugee issue. 

"The presidential decree should have been followed by a gubernatorial one, and also a ministerial decree. Everyone should play their part," Ronny said.

Indonesia is home to over 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom have waited for years to be resettled in another country. 

Earlier last month, hundreds of them camped out on the streets in front of the UNHCR headquarters in Central Jakarta to protest their plight.

The Jakarta administration has now transferred them to a new shelter in Kalideres, North Jakarta, though their fate remains uncertain