UNHCR: asylum seekers continue to increase in Indonesia

Kuta, Bali (ANTARA News) - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the number of political asylum seekers in Indonesia continued to increase in the past five years due to prolonged conflicts in their country.

The number of asylum seekers in Indonesia reached 389 in 2008 and the figure jumped to 3,230 in 2009, and further moved up to 3,095 in 2010 and 4,052 in 2011, external relations official of the UNHCR office in Jakarta, Mitra Salima Suryono said here on Friday.

"In the January-May 2012 period, 4,552 asylum seekers and 1,180 international refugees came to Indonesia," he said.

Nearly percent of the 5,732 asylum seekers and international refugees were being accommodated at different immigration detention houses in 13 regions, he said.

"The rest is being accommodated at rented houses under the coordination of IOM (the International Organization for Migration)," he said.

In 2012, 74 asylum seekers voluntarily returned to their country of origin and 60 others were removed to third countries such as Australia and the Philippines, he said.

He said 59 percent of the asylum seekers came from Afghanistan, 9 percent from Iran, 6 percent from Pakistan and the rest from Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Somalia.

In 2011, 403 asylum seekers were removed to third countries and 139 others returned home voluntarily.

Mitra said the Indonesian government had yet to ratify the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. According to the National Action Plan for Human Rights (Ranham), Indonesia will ratify the convention only in 2014.

As long as the government had yet to ratify the convention, it had no obligation to naturalize asylum seekers and international refugees, he said.

"However, the UNHCR appreciates the Indonesian government`s stand to temporarily accommodate asylum seekers and refugees and not to block their trips," he said.  (*)