The government of Indonesia has passed a Presidential Decree (Perpres) to protect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

The legislation provides clarity regarding the status of around 14,000 asylum seekers and refugees currently residing in Indonesia, confirming Article 28G of the Indonesian Constitution, and Article 25 – 27 of Law No. 37 of 1999 on Foreign Relations.

Asylum seekers are entitled to liberty and security of person, and should not be detained on the basis of their migration status. Alternatives to detention, including screening and referral mechanisms, must be in place for asylum seekers to ensure that their fundamental right to seek asylum is respected.

IDC member SUAKA welcomes this new regulation that has been developing since 2010. The legislation recognises the use of terminology as defined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Indonesia is not a signatory.

“We appreciate that this new Perpres confirms the definition of refugees contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and does not continue to label asylum seekers as illegal immigrants,” said Muhammad Hafiz, SUAKA Advocacy Coordinator, and Executive Director Human Rights Working Group Indonesia (HRWG).

Febi Yonesta, chair of SUAKA, confirmed that this decree should become the key regulation and reference for officials regarding the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees and that prior to this law, officials were hesitant to address some issues affecting asylum seekers and refugees, including the arrival of people by boat. “Due to the absence of regulation their approach was often protectionist, which increases the vulnerability of people seeking asylum from war, persecution and mistreatment,” he said. The implementation of this decree will increase understanding among officials, both legally and in the field, and establishes coordination and a clear governmental approach to the treatment of asylum seekers, “no matter the mode of their arrival”.

SUAKA has outlined the need for training of government officials to “ensure effectiveness and compliance… especially in areas where asylum seekers and refugees are held in detention or live in the community” said Muhammad Hafiz. Indonesia is not currently a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

While very much commending the implementation of a law to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers the advocacy group is advising that special considerations must be made in regards to vulnerable people in emergency situations at sea, and to those in Indonesia with health issues as well as children and the elderly.

IDC welcomes this development by the Indonesian Government and the many stakeholders, including civil society, who supported its development.