One of the single refugees on hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in Jakarta. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Single Refugees Go On Hunger Strike in Jakarta to Protest for Rights


AUGUST 21, 2019

Jakarta. Hundreds of single refugees have been demonstrating again in front of the UN Refugee Agency headquarters in Central Jakarta since Monday. Some of them have gone on hunger strike to protest for their rights. 

The single refugees claim the UNHCR has been favoring refugees with families to support during their resettlement process. 

Rajab Ali, an asylum seeker from Pakistan, said single refugees are asking for equal treatment in deciding their refugee status.

"The UNHCR has been prioritizing families, so what's going to happen to us single refugees? We have families too in our home country, we only came here alone because we didn't have enough money to bring them here," Ali said on Wednesday.

Ali has been stuck in limbo in Indonesia for seven years – single refugees typically spend more time in transit countries – and as far as he knows his resettlement application still has not been processed. 

"Some of our friends have committed suicide in Indonesia because they have been here too long," he said.

The demonstrators carried a long banner showing profile photos of single refugees who have lost their lives to suicide in Indonesia.

Among them were Abbas Mohammadi, who passed away in Batam, Najibullah in Bogor, Ali Hazarah in Surabaya, Nasrullah in Jakarta and Wahid Nowrozi, who took his own life early this year.

The refugees are doing hunger-strike, demanding for their rights to be resettled, at UNHCR office, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Some of the refugees on hunger strike in front of the UNHCR office in Central Jakarta on Wednesday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

"We've been treated like we were less than human. They [the UNHCR] always say refugees have rights, but we are not getting it," the 25-year-old said.

Ali said 12 refugees collapsed during their hunger strike on Wednesday.

A few ambulances from the health department were seen at the demonstration site. Doctors and nurses were treating the refugees but refused to make any comment. 

The UNHCR has been concentrating their attention on refugees with families since early July after facing a barrage of demonstrations demanding a quicker resolution to their refugee status.

Hundreds of them had camped out on the streets, forcing the city council to move them to a new shelter in Kalideres. 

Indonesia is currently home to over 15,000 refugees and asylum seekers who have waited here for years to be resettled. Most of them come from Afghanistan, Sudan and Somalia.

Stricter immigration policies have prolonged the resettlement process and more and more refugees and asylum seekers now find themselves spending more time in transit countries than they would have liked to.

The single refugees also demand to be treated as equal as refugees with families, at UNHCR office, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Single refugees demand to be treated equally as refugees with families. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)