The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is calling for increased public awareness about the fact that there are thousands of refugees in Indonesia.
“Refugees are forced to flee their country because their lives, or freedom, are in danger. The UNHCR works closely with the government of Indonesia, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and NGOs to ensure that refugees receive adequate protection,” said Manuel Jordão, the UNHCR Representative in Indonesia, in a press statement released on Monday in commemoration of World Refugee Day, which falls on June 20.
The UNHCR said it hopes the campaign, themed “one refugee without hope is too many”, would help increase public support and understanding about the plight of the refugees, he said.
“The UNHCR hopes that today’s commemorations will help in raising public awareness of the situation of refugees in Indonesia,” said Jordão.
In Indonesia, there were 2,839 refugees and asylum seekers mostly from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Myanmar as of end of May, according to the UNHCR.
In dealing with refugees in Indonesia or elsewhere, the UNHCR has three options: voluntary repatriation of the refugees to their home country when it is safe; local integration in the country of asylum; or resettlement to a third country, it said.
In Indonesia, third-country resettlement is usually the only option available to people found to be in need of international protection.
Over the past five years, the UNHCR has resettled 855 people in third countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Australia, New Zealand and Canada are among the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees signatory countries, but Indonesia is not.
“In the days and years ahead we hope, of course, that peace initiatives will bring long-standing conflicts to an end so that more refugees can go home,” Jordão said.
“Unfortunately, repatriation is not always possible and UNHCR will, therefore, continue to seek for state support to provide protection and alternative solutions to refugees and asylum seekers.”
In its annual Global Trends report on the situation of refugees in the world, the UNHCR said 43.7 million people were now displaced worldwide – roughly equaling the entire populations of Colombia or South Korea, or of Scandinavia and Sri Lanka combined.
The figure was 400,000 higher than the 43.3 million recorded a year before and was the highest recorded in the past 15 years, the UNHCR said.
There is also an imbalance in international support for the world’s forcibly displaced, with 80 percent of the world’s refugees being hosted by developing countries, and at a time of rising anti-refugee sentiment in many industrialized ones, it said.
The 2010 report said many of the world’s poorest countries were hosting huge refugee populations, both in absolute terms and in relation to the size of their economies.
According to the report, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.1 million and 1 million, respectively.
Pakistan also feels the biggest economic impact with 710 refugees for each dollar of its per capita gross domestic product, followed by Congo and Kenya, with 475 and 247 refugees, respectively.