Indonesia’s Afghan refugees urge swift resettlement, protest Taliban rule

The protest took place outside the UN Refugee Agency’s office in Jakarta, with many Afghans saying they’re extremely worried about their families back home.

Afghan refugees holding placards ask for justice and resettlement during a rally outside the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR’s office in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 24, 2021. (Reuters)

Hundreds of Afghan refugees protested in Indonesia against a prolonged resettlement process, saying they needed to be offered new homes now that repatriation was out of the question with the return of the Taliban.

Thousands of refugees from Afghanistan, most of them from the Hazara ethnic minority, who have long been persecuted by the Taliban, have lived in Indonesia for years as they await resettlement in third countries such as Canada or Australia.

On Tuesday, hundreds gathered outside the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the capital, Jakarta, despite coronavirus restrictions prohibiting demonstrations, to demand that their cases be expedited.

‘We need resettlement’

“In the past year the UNHCR has been telling us there is only one percent chance of resettlement,” refugee Hakmat Ziraki said.

“Today we come here to ask ‘what is your answer now? Are you still encouraging voluntary repatriation?’.”

“Our people are dying every day,” he said. “We need some justice, we need resettlement.”

Ziraki said his relatives, unable to bear years of living in limbo without jobs, eventually returned to Afghanistan. On Friday, he received a text message from his sister, saying she was distraught and that everyone in their village had sent their young daughters out of the country.

Banners at Tuesday’s rally read “Afghanistan is not safe” and “Resettle Afghan refugees from Indonesia.”

“Waiting for more than eight years without resettlement has been absolutely terrible,” Ziraki said.

A spokesperson for UNHCR was not immediately available for comment.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and is predominately seen as a transit country for those seeking asylum to a third country.

Tuesday’s protest saw minor scuffles between police after demonstrators were warned to disperse given the public health risks, with the capital still recovering from a wave of coronavirus infections.

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