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Jakarta Post

Govt urged to include refugees in national COVID-19 response

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, June 20, 2020   /   02:58 pm
Govt urged to include refugees in national COVID-19 response Refugees tend to a baby on a sidewalk in Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta, on July 5, 2019. Lacking the money to rent accommodation, they are forced to live on the street. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Human rights activists have lambasted the government for its lack of attention given to refugees as a vulnerable group during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Roswita Kristy of the Jesuit Refugee Service Indonesia said refugees taking shelter in Indonesia were not included in the government’s COVID-19 response program.

The government has provided barely any access to information regarding the outbreak for refugees, who instead rely on nongovernmental organizations (NGO) to translate information about the disease into their languages.

“With community-based collaboration, the refugees can actually help and contribute to the fight against COVID-19,” Roswita said on Friday in a discussion commemorating this year’s World Refugee Day, which falls every June 20.

Other speakers in the discussion said the government should follow the global trend of inclusion and issue better regulations to protect the refugees' rights.

Read also: Rohingya refugees rejected everywhere as countries grapple with COVID-19 concerns

Indonesia’s current regulation regarding refugees, a 2016 presidential decree on the treatment of refugees from overseas, only stipulates administrative aspects rather than protections for refugees’ rights.

“[Fortunately] Indonesians have been pioneering the act of inclusion. For example, people saving Rohingya refugees in Aceh in 2015 were not government officials, but fishermen who prioritized their sense of humanity,” said Rizka Argadianti of SUAKA, an organization focused on the protection of refugees’ rights.

Somalian refugee Nimo Ali, also a speaker in the discussion, said refuges had not been neglecting the local community during the outbreak. Ali and her platform, Sisterhood, have been active in distributing staple food packages in her neighborhood during the outbreak.

“We never forget our Indonesian neighbors who also experience hunger like us,” she said. “Sharing is caring. We show them respect and feeling after they give us peace and protection.”

According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were at least 13,623 refugees registered in Indonesia as of January. (aly)