The Jakarta Post
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it will support whatever decision the Indonesian government takes concerning refugees and asylum seekers in Batam so long as the policy adheres to human rights principles.
The UNHCR, however, will ask the government to thoroughly consider if they want to place refugees on a single island, as proposed by the Batam administration.
UNHCR senior protection officer Jeffrey Savage told The Jakarta Post in Batam on Friday that he had heard of the idea to move the refugees to an island outside Batam.
"There are suggestions to put the refugees on one island. But the UNHCR asks that the idea be studied more carefully. It could create a lot of problems and conflict. First of all, they are from 48 different nationalities," Savage said after meeting with local government officials in Batam to discuss the issue of refugees.
The Batam administration sent a letter to Jakarta asking the central government to remove refugees from Batam, saying that their presence had created problems such as making public parks in Batam look dirty.
Batam spokesperson Ardiwinata said on Friday that Mayor Muhammad Rudi had suggested placing all the refugees on a single island outside Batam.
“We have a success story with Galang Island, where we dealt with Vietnamese refugees. We still have the facilities they used there,” he said.
Ardi said placing the refugees on one island would make it easier for the administration to supervise them. The proposal would also, according to Ardi, “maintain Batam’s local wisdom.”
“We have hundreds of islands here and some are not inhabited,” he went on to say. (evi)
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