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Falling through the cracks: The impacts of funding cuts on refugees in Indonesia

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IN March 2018, the Australian Government announced it would cut funding to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Indonesia. It is a decision that has ultimately left many refugees in Indonesia without choices, homes, or hope for a speedy resettlement.

Since the Regional Cooperation Arrangement between Australia, Indonesia and the IOM took effect in 2000, the IOM has provided basic health care and shelter for refugees and asylum seekers referred to their care by Indonesian migration authorities.

The IOM has assisted over 23,600 people over the past 18 years. Currently, the IOM’s caseload is close to 9,000 and, for the first time, this number is now capped. Even though new asylum seekers keep arriving in Indonesia – 755 arrived in the first seven months of 2018 – most of them now have no chance of being cared for by IOM.

The current IOM caseload is roughly two-thirds of the total number of asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia. The rest are asylum seekers and refugees who live off their own means and use their own funds to rent apartments and houses.

SEE ALSO: Excluded from Indonesian society, refugees are vulnerable to homelessness, suicides

In order to benefit from the IOM care scheme, refugees and asylum seekers must go through the Indonesian immigration detention system to get a referral for relocation in a community shelter. Although residence in community shelters has some restrictions, conditions in the shelters are very much better than in the prison-like detention centres.

When I started my research on asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia in 2010, I frequently came across reports about breakouts from detention centres. Indonesian guards would sometimes show me the breakout spots, such as dug-out tunnels and broken windows. Quite often I had a hunch that the guards might have had a hand in orchestrating the breakouts, simply because locking up refugees and asylum seekers was seen as an unwanted and burdensome part of their job.

Back in 2010, asylum seekers who had escaped from detention were still able to get on boats and sail to Australia. If they were not keen to face the risks at sea, they could still hope for resettlement by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which was at the time relatively speedy by international resettlement standards.

Asylum seekers........

© Asian Correspondent