Refugee children play with a police officer in a shelter in Kalideres, West Jakarta, earlier this month. (Antara Photo/Galih Pradipta)

UNHCR Stops Food Rations for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Kalideres Shelter


SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

Jakarta. Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers who chose to remain at a temporary shelter in Kalideres, West Jakarta, after they were told to leave the premises last month have been left without food in the past three days since the United Nations Refugees Agency have stopped sending them their food rations. 

The refugees were ordered to leave the shelter on Aug. 31 by the Jakarta administration, who handed them over to the UNHCR

Since then, the Jakarta government had kept a limited assistance going for refugees who have not found a new place to stay. At the moment, around 450 refugees and asylum seekers are still staying in the converted military building in Kalideres. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) gave Rp 1.3 million ($93) to each refugee family and Rp 1 million to each single refugee when they left the shelter at the end of last month, according to an official from Jakarta's social service department who refused to be named when talking to Jakarta Globe on Friday.

"Around 150 of them returned [to Kalideres] after receiving the money from the IOM. But the UNHCR has stopped sending food and drink for the past three days," the official told Suara Pembaruan on Thursday.

He said the UN agency seems to be avoiding the refugees and neglecting them. Their staff who regularly visit the shelter to collect data have not been seen in Kalideres for a week. 

The refugees have been relying on the money from the IOM and donations from friendly locals to survive.

The UNHCR told the refugees to leave the premises again last week but most of them defied the order arguing that the money they were given was not enough to rent a new place or buy food. 

The UNHCR's Indonesian representative Thomas Vargas said the agency is still trying to find a sustainable solution for the refugee crisis, which ultimately includes resettlement to a receiving country.

He said giving the refugees cash is just a stopgap solution. The agency intends to find ways to help the refugees support themselves, which may include enrolling them in partnership programs with the Indonesian government. 

One of the refugees at Kalideres, Mohammad Ali, said on Thursday that recently their ration consisted of just two glasses of water a day.