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Yunizar Adiputera
Atin Prabandari
Yunizar Adiputera
Atin Prabandari
Institute of International Studies
Universitas Gadjah Mada
© 2018 Institute of International Studies
Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik Universitas Gadjah Mada
Jl. Sosio-Justicia No.1 Bulaksumur Yogyakarta 55281, Indonesia
Phone: +62-274-563362 ext. 115
Email: iis.
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Attribution Please cite the work as follows: Adiputera, Y. & Prabandari, A. 2018. Addressing challenges
and identifying opportunities for refugee access to employment in Indonesia. Yogyakarta: Institute of International
Cover and interior design : Mohammad Furqon
Copyediting : Imas Indra Hapsari and Nurhawira Gigih Pramono
A. Country Overview
Indonesia is currently hosting approximately
14,405 refugees and asylum seekers (UNHCR,
2016). They mainly come from Myanmar,
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and other
countries in the Middle East, Africa, and South
Asia (UNHCR, 2016). Around a third of them
are in 13 detention facilities across the country,
another third live in several community houses
funded by IOM, and the rest live autonomously
among local people (Brown & Missbach, 2017).
Owing to the otherwise-modest growth of
people of concern and the limited capacity of
UNHCR in administering the Refugee Status
Determination (RSD) process across the country,
the waiting time to conclude RSD is currently 24
months (UNHCR, 2016).
Since Indonesia does not allow for permanent
local solutions, i.e. integration with the host
community, and return is not an option for those in
need of international protection, the only durable
solution for refugees in Indonesia is resettlement,
for which they may need to wait even longer.
It is, therefore, not uncommon to  nd refugees
living in Indonesia for more than 5 or 6 years
(Gutierez, 2017). Under the cur rent arrangement,
wherein they are unable to legally work, this means
that these refugees must stay in Indonesia for an
extended period of time without any means of
being self-reliant.
Until recently, Indonesia did not have a legal
regime in place for hosting refugees and asylum
seekers. Like most of its neighbors, Indonesia
is not a State Party to the 1951 Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees or the 1967
Protocol. There is little indication that the
government intends to become a Party in the near
term. Absent rati cation, the only applicable law
for handling refugees and asylum seekers was
the Immigration Law 6/2011. Under this law,
there is no distinction between refugees and others,
meaning they are treated as illegal immigrants.
The Regulation of the Director General of
Immigration No. IMI-1489.UM.08.05/2010,
which was subsequently replaced by DGI
Regulation No. 0352.GR.02.07/2016 on the
Handling of Illegal Immigrants Declar ing to
be Asylum Seeker or Refugee, provided the basis
for the government not to impose immigration
actions against those who have attained an
attestation letter as an asylum seeker or refugee
from UNHCR, provided they do not violate any
laws or regulations.
On 31 December 2016, President Joko
Widodo signed Presidential Regulation
Addressing challenges and
for refugee access to employment
in Indonesia
1/3 live in 13 detention facilities across the country
1/3 live in several community houses funded by IOM
1/3 live autonomously among local people
Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and other countries in the Middle
East, Africa, and South Asia (UNHCR, 2016)
14,405 refugees
Figure 1. An overview of refugees
in Indonesia (UNHCR, 2016).
Yunizar Adiputera | Atin Prabandari
(Perpres) 125/2016 on the Handling of
Foreign Refugees.1 The Perpres for malizes
the provisions in the DG Immigration
Regulation, and expanded it by
adding specic mechanisms involving
various government ministries and agencies,
as well as municipal/district governments.
This Perpres also authorizes allocation
from the national budget, as well as local
gover nments’ budgets to administer refugees
and asylum seekers.
While this Perpres is a positive
development in ter ms of for malizing the
government’s recognition of the presence of
refugees and asylum seekers in the country,
the impacts of the Perpres may not be felt
until after one or two years of implementa-
tion. In 2017, the gover n-
ment is still occupied with
socializing the Per pres to
relevant ministr ies, agencies,
and local gover nments. Since
the Perpres was signed on
the last day of 2016, it was
also impossible for relevant
agencies to allocate a special
budget for the handling of
refugees for 2017.
Importantly, even once they are
registered or recognized, refugees and asylum
seekers in Indonesia will remain unable to
access employment in the country under the
Perpres. The Perpres only provides for
identifying, shelter ing, securing, monitoring,
and funding, but says nothing about the rights
of the refugees to work or participate in any
income-generating activities. This is also the
case with the right to education2, which was
present in the early drafts of the Perpres, but
was removed from the nal
Since they cannot work, refugees mainly
rely on an allowance provided by UNHCR
or IOM in the amount of around 1.3 million
Rupiah per month (Missbach, 2015). Asylum
seekers generally have no monthly allowance,
except in cases of exceptional need or where
support, in limited circumstances, is provided
by NGOs, such as Jesuit Refugee Service
Indonesia (Briskman, Fiske & Ali, 2016). This
amount is well below the average household
income in Indonesia, and it is barely sucient
1 In Indonesian terminology, the term refugee refers to both IDP and refugee, usually with a qualier: “internal” for
the former and “foreign” for the latter.
2 There is, however, no prohibition for refugees to get education or to join formal education institutions, subject to
each school’s policy
to meet basic needs (OECD, 2017). This
amount is also unsustainable in the long run,
not only because the living costs keep r ising,
but also because the shortfall in UNHCR
funding inhibits it from continually providing
support, as was the case in late 2013 (Missbach,
Socially, the monthly allowance also
poses problems for refugees. Members of
the local community, especially those who
live below the average income level, often
feel envious of the refugees. The problem is
not so much about the amount, but more
about the perception that refugees do not
have to work for it (Missbach, 2015). It creates
the misconception that refugees are living in
pleasure and luxury with access to sustained
sources of income without
having to do anything.
Economic pressure
also creates another set of
social problems. There have
been reports of refugees
illegally working in some
of the local businesses in
several refugee- populated
areas, for example as barbers
in some of the barbershops
in Puncak, Bogor (Kusmayadi, 2016). There
are also limited reports of refugees arrested
for various crimes, for example the alleged
prostitution case of two asylum seekers
who lived autonomously in Kalibata, South
Jakarta (Pratama, 2017). It should be noted
that there is no evidence that refugees have
a higher propensity to commit crime than
the general population, and when they do,
economic hardship may be a factor.
Regularizing refugees by allowing them
to access employment is a potential option to
alleviate some of the concerns harbored by
the government as well as some members of
the local community regarding the presence
of refugees in Indonesia. By working, refugees
can contr ibute positively to the economy,
particularly locally. This may also help change
the perception that refugees are living
luxur iously without having to work. In
addition, while refugees in Indonesia pose no
meaningful national security r isks, regularizing
them may also allow easier government
Importantly, even once
they are registered or
recognized, refugees
and asylum seekers in
Indonesia will remain
unable to access
employment in the
country under the
This is also the case
with the right to
education, which was
present in the early
drafts of the Perpres,
but was removed from
the nal draft.
Regularizing refugees by al-
lowing them to access employ-
ment is a potential option to
alleviate some of the concerns
harbored by the government
as well as some members of
the local community regarding
the presence of refugees in
monitoring through better identication and
B. Economic Considerations
i. The economic benets (for refugees and
the host country) of permitting refugees
to access employment and, specically, the
short and long-term benets of allowing
refugees to become more self-reliant and
to engage in the formal economy.
There has been a new trend in seeing refugees
no longer as a burden to host countr ies or as
passive recipients of aid and charity, but as
people who have agency, are capable of self-
reliance, and who could actively contribute
to their host communities. Based on this view,
opening employment access for refugees will
not only support refugees to become more
self- reliant, but also strengthen their agency
by “enabling them to participate in and
contribute eectively to the economies and
societies of host countries, whilst ensuring that
this approach does not disadvantage national
workers and host communities” (ILO, 2016).
A study by IMF (Aiyar et al., 2016),
on the economic challenges of refugees in
Europe found that the ow of asylum seekers
will increase domestic demand and GDP.
IMF sta estimates that this eect will be
modest for the EU as a whole (raising the
level of GDP by some 0.1 percent in 2017),
but more pronounced in the main asylum
seeker destination countries. More importantly,
the study says that rapid labor market
integration of the refugees will maximize
their net contribution to the public nances
in the longer term. The displacing eect of
refugee’s entr y into labor market, i.e. refugees
taking jobs from the locals, is also found to be
limited and temporary, mainly due to the “low
substitutability between immigrants and native
workers, and because investment usually
increases in response to a larger workforce” (Ai-
yar et al., 2016).
As for Indonesia, a 2016 report provided
for the Asia Development Bank (ADB) shows
that Indonesia’s labor market performance
has ranked low, with slow job growth and
high unemployment (Allen, 2016). There
was a combination of an increasing rate of
un employment with a higher number of
workers demanding jobs. This condition has
been exacerbated by the low quality of available
workers, a shortage of skilled workers and the
incompatibility of workers’ skills to the demands
of the labor market.
There are genuine debates over whether
allowing refugees to work will bring positive
or negative eects to the economy. Putting
aside these debates for a moment, there is a
strong reason to believe that, in the context
of Indonesia, any eects are likely to be very
minimum. To put it in perspective, the number
of people in the Indonesian labor force in
2016 was 131,544,111, of which, 7,005,262,
or approximately 5.33%, were unemployed
(Trading Economics, 2017). On the other hand,
based on the data from UNHCR Indonesia
the total number of refugees of productive
working age in Indonesia is 11,266. Compared
to the entire national labor force, or even only
to the number of unemployed workers, the
number of refugees is almost neglig ible. This
means that the risk of refugees aecting
labor market access for Indonesians is extremely
l o w.
It cannot be denied that unemployment
is a worrying problem in Indonesia. According
to data from the ADB, by August 2015 the
labor force participation rate in Indonesia
had decreased to 65.8% (Allen, 2016). The
employment-to-population ratio was projected
at 61.7%. This means that the increase in job
creation is not matched with the increasing
demand. Data shows that the population aged
15 years and over increased by 3.1 million, yet,
the number of unemployed workers increased by
over 300,000, with “people not economically
active” rising by 2.6 million (Allen, 2016). As
this data shows, unemployment is still relatively
high, particularly in absolute ter ms.
While persistent unemployment problems
may seem to go against the idea of giving
employment access to refugees, in reality
The employ-
ratio was project-
ed at 61.7%. This
means that the
increase in job cre-
ation is not matched
with the increasing
Figure 2. Indonesian labor force and productive-age refugees in
comparison (Trading Economics, 2017)
total number of refugees of
productive working age in
Indonesia is 11,266
refugee in Indonesia 14.405
unemployment in Indonesia
7,005,262 (5.33%)
this might not be the best conclusion to
draw. In addition to the negligible eects, it
would likely cause to the nation-wide state
of unemployment, employment access for
refugees may also open the path for
new employment/economic opportunities
dr iven by refugees. In fact, a study by the
Australian Bureau of Statistics shows
that refugees might be the most
entrepreneurial of all foreigners in Australia,
which is shown by the relative income they get
from their “own unincorporated businesses”
than those that go to Australia on skilled-
worker or family visas (Australian Bureau
of Statistics, 2015). This entrepreneurial
character of refugees, if harnessed well, can
go a long way in beneting the local economy.
A study about enterprising refugees in the
London area found that enterpr ises set up
by refugees indeed have positive impacts on
the community and local economy (Lyon,
Sepulveda, & Syrett, 2007).
There is a good prospect for refugees in
Indonesia to thrive through self- employment
if given the opportunity. Data from
UNHCR Indonesia shows that around 10-
11% of refugees in Indonesia used to work
as a merchant/trader, which means they have
the necessary exper ience to open up small
enterprises. Reports of refugees setting up
businesses in some areas, despite a lack of legal
basis, shows that this might be the case. The
entrepreneurial skills of the refugees can also
be used to further benet the local population
and economy, for example by setting up joint
enterprises between refugees and locals that
can employ workers from both groups (e.g.
50% from refugees and 50% from local
people with low-income background).
Given the right training from experienced
volunteers on start-ups and small-scale
business, the joint enterprises may have a
positive impact on the local economy while
at the same time empowering the locals
through knowledge-transfer.
There are a number of other relevant
considerations when looking at the
Indonesian unemployment problem and
refugee access to employment. As noted
above, there is a skills mismatch in the
Indonesian labor market. The World Bank
2008 survey of employers (World Bank,
2014) showed that there were diculties for
employers to nd employees with compatible
skill for professional and management
positions. There are also skill gaps between
sectors. While some sectors lack educated grad-
uates, other sectors’ employees do not possess
the appropriate skills required by the avail-
able jobs. Against this backdrop, McKinsey
projected that, as a result of the increasing
demand for semi-skilled and skilled workers,
which will soar up to 113 million by 2030,
the skill shortages and skill mismatches will
create even greater challenges for the labor
market (McKinsey Global Institute, 2012).
The study does not elaborate further about
which jobs or skills are, or will be, unmet
by the domestic supply of labor, but data
from UNHCR Indonesia shows that there
is a good portion of refugees in Indonesia
who can be categorized as semi-skilled and
skilled workers with work experience as, for
example, engineers (of various kinds), managers,
journalists, accountants, etc.
It should be noted, though, that the
major ity of refugees in Indonesia have no
or limited prior education and working
experience. This means that most of them,
if given the right to work, would apply for
low- skilled jobs. This should not be a problem
for Indonesia since there are no shortages
of low-skilled jobs in the country. The World
Bank surveys shows that the highest rate of
unemployment in the country is among
tertiary g raduates and senior secondary
graduates, while non-educated laborers are
relatively well-absorbed into low-skilled jobs
(World Bank, 2014). Since the government of
Indonesia is focusing on improving educated
and skilled workers, the entry of refugees
into the low-skilled job market should not
worry the gover nment. Moreover, even in the
low-skilled job market the locals will still have
a language advantage over refugees and asylum
ii. Other benets associated with the
regularization of refugees into the
country’s formal labour markets.
Allowing refugees to work and become self-
sucient will also increase their resilience
and self-dignity as human beings who have
agency and who are able to not only help
themselves and their family but also contribute
to society at large. Self-reliance will reduce
long-ter m dependency on relief and aid from
humanitarian organizations.
It can also reduce the vulnerability of
refugees to the extent that it will contri-
bute to community resilience. Failing to open
This means that most
of them, if given the
right to work, would
apply for low- skilled
jobs. This should not be
a problem for Indonesia
since there are no
shortages of low-skilled
jobs in the country.
legal employment access for refugees will fur-
ther push them into the informal sector, which,
despite also being prohibited, is less supervised.
Working in the informal sector only increases
their vulnerability, exposes them to potential
abusive practices by employers (i.e. low and/
or delayed wage payment, longer hours), and
unlike locals, they cannot report this to the
police. If such abusive practices persist and
become widespread, as they likely would,
Indonesia may lose its reputation as a human
rights promoter in the region.
Refugees with access to opportunities to
support their own livelihoods will have more
positive attitudes toward diculties and will be
more likely to be able to return to their home
countries when situations permit (UNHCR,
2011; Betts, 2016; Vriese, 2006).
who have no access to work may be at r isk
of channeling their insecurity toward negatives
behaviors (i.e. illicit activities), because they
have no other options, which will lead to
further deter iorating relations between refugees
and host communities. This situation can also
result in more frequent instances of human
tracking and smuggling, which Indonesia is
committed to combatting, including through its
participation and leadership in the Bali Process.
By opening labor market access to
refugees, refugees will be able to work, gain an
income and not only become self-reliant but
provide support for their children and family.
Having an income can also provide them with
further access to education and healthcare, and
therefore contribute to their whole sustainability
of livelihood. This is important because not all
refugees have access to the assistance from IOM
and UNHCR, nor are the assistance from IOs
sustainable in the long run.
Regularizing refugees in countries of
rst asylum like Indonesia also strengthens
global refugee governance by allowing refugees
to better position themselves in anticipation of
eventual return or resettlement. Employment
not only provides them with access to savings,
which essential for restarting their lives in
their home countries or third countries,
but also with the opportunity to develop
their skills and capacity. Rather than coming
as burdens on scarce international resources,
refugees will come well-prepared (nancially
and otherwise) to immediately contribute to
their own society or the society of their new
countries of resettlement.
iii. The short and long term economic losses
(or missed opportunities) which result from
not regularizing refugees into the formal
labor market.
In Indonesia, refugees are not allowed to work
or even open their own business. So far, the
dominant paradigm is seeing refugees not only
as a burden for countries but also as competitors
for the host countries’ labor supply. Yet, there
are risks associated with failing to regularize
refugees into the labor market. First, this can
push refugees to work in informal jobs. In the
long term this could push wages down for both
refugees and employees in host countr ies. Second,
the government will lose the tax income from
refugees if they are not permitted to work.
Third, the country will lose the opportunity
for market creation and expansion, as refugees
who are self-sucient would be able to spend
and increase consumption. Fourth, preventing
refugees from opening their own business will
exclude not only refugees but also local people
from employment opportunities.
iv. How providing refugees access to
employment may reduce the attractiveness
of irregular movements.
Most refugees coming to Indonesia do not
intend to stay in Indonesia. Most of them expect
to go to other countries which can provide
better protection and have a more supporting
environment for a sustainable livelihood, such
as Australia. In some cases, many refugees
and asylum seekers who are already in
Indonesia are often found leaving Indonesia
to neighbor ing countries which are thought to
be better places to work, using ir regular means
and routes, and sometimes involving trackers,
who may pose further threats to refugees. This
has happened, for example, to Rohingya people
stranded in Aceh, Indonesia. It is reported that
their number is reducing as most are leaving for
Malaysia (Yosephine, 2017).
Against the above backdrop, the opening
of labor market access in Indonesia will
be crucial to reduce incentives for further
irregular movements of refugees and asylum
seekers, as they will be able to stay temporarily
and be self-reliant. In this regard, it can reduce
their incentive to attempt another dangerous
journey in order to get better living conditions.
Opening labor market access in this regard will
promote the legal, safe and orderly departure
and arrival of refugees and asylum seekers.
Most refugees
coming to Indonesia
do not intend to
stay in Indonesia.
Most of them expect
to go to other
countries which
can provide better
protection and have
a more supporting
environment for
a sustainable
livelihood, such as
C. National Security
i. Evidence regarding the actual security
risks posed by refugee populations,
and how these risks compare to other
populations, including legal economic
migrants and local populations.
There is always a worry that the presence
of refugees and asylum seekers may bring
national secur ity r isks to the host country.
This sentiment seems to have been shared
by some government ocials, in particular
the security establishment (Arkhelaus, 2017).
One particular threat often mentioned is
potential radicalization, which may translate
to terrorism. However, this has not been
substantiated by any evidence linking refugee
and asylum seekers to terrorist or radical
activities in Indonesia. Until now, there is no
record of any refugees or asylum seekers in
Indonesia being involved in any ways with
terrorist activities. This is consistent with
the nding that “histor ically, the number of
criminals and terrorists in mass migration
movements has been low” (Schmid, 2016).
In fact, terrorists in Indonesia are mostly
Indonesians who were trained in Afghanistan
and then returned and set up terror networks
in the country (Magouirk, Atran, & Sageman,
2008). Refugees and asylum seekers, on the
other hand, are those running away from
the security problems in countries like
Having said that, security risks may
be increased by not allowing refugees to
work. Just like the local people, refugees and
asylum seekers may also be as susceptible to
terrorist recruitment if the socio- economic
hardships they face persist. Feelings of
being rejected by society might translate
into resentment, which in the long run can
be dangerous. But as one study put it, the
chance of these people being radicalized in
Indonesia in the short term is low (Schmid,
2016), and since Indonesia is a transit
country, the possibility of having multi-
generational refugees staying in Indonesia
is also very low. Nevertheless, in this context
allowing refugees access to employment
during their stay might in fact mitigate
the r isks of these refugees being radicalized
and recruited by terrorists.
3 Debate-polemics involves verbal confrontation with increasingly emotional tone rather than rational one. For
Another security concern often raised
is crime. There is currently no reliable
quantitative data about the cr iminal activities
of refugees and asylum seekers, nor has there
been a systematic study investigating the
perception of the local community about the
crimes committed by refugees. This is not to
say that refugees and asylum seekers do not
commit crimes. In fact, as has been reported
by many media throughout the years,
refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia do
sometimes get in trouble with the police. But
there is no evidence that refugees are more
likely to commit cr imes than local people or
other types of migrants. The nature of media
reporting sometimes does not help, blowing up
(the small number of) cases in which refugees
are supposedly involved in illicit activity, such
as the case of Batam prostitution, in which the
accused refugees were not even charged with
a crime, as, under the Indonesian criminal
code, being a prostitute is not a cr ime per se.
In any event, looking closer at
documented cases of refugees engaging in
illicit activities, such as the case of prostitution
in Kalibata City, it is clear that the primary
cause is economic pressure which forces
refugees to turn to activities of this nature
in the informal market. It can be said, then,
that the cur rent prohibition on employment
is actually encouraging refugees to resort to
undignied and informal jobs that make
them more vulnerable. Legal employment
could, therefore, be an important mitigating
factor for this, and limit refugees’ need to
engage with these activities.
There is also a considerable fear from
government ocials about conicts between
refugees and local populations. Again, owing
to the absence of aggregated data, the basis
of such fears cannot be substantiated beyond
anecdotes where local people in some cases
voice opposition to the presence of refugees.
There is, however, potential for conict
between refugees and local community, as one
study puts it, which are rooted in three do-
mains: socio-cultural (manners, etiquette,
religious views), ideological (extreme ideol-
ogy), and legal (crime) (Sultoni, 2016). But
even the study admits that the potential for
conict is mostly still in the “debate-polem-
ic” stage with nothing resembling conict
beyond suspicions and few word.3 In the
It can be said, then, that
the current prohibition
on employment is
actually encouraging
refugees to resort
to undignied and
informal jobs that make
them more vulnerable.
Legal employment
could, therefore, be an
important mitigating
factor for this, and
limit refugees’ need
to engage with these
context of Indonesia, where the population is
so diverse (as described in more detail below),
such rhetor ical conict is not uncommon, and
people are generally well-equipped to deal with
such situations.
ii. Measures which could be taken to
address government security concerns
about refugees (i.e. screening, data sharing
between governments/international
agencies, joint registration, etc.).
There are measures that could be taken to
address security concerns about refugees. In
fact, many of these measures have been included
in the newly issued Perpres (in the section about
surveillance). Under the Perpres, the government
will authorize its own registration process
for refugees, seemingly separate but related
to that of UNHCR. The registration will
include photo and nger print identication,
and the refugees will be issued registration
cards or special identity cards. While the Per-
pres does not specify what data should fur-
ther be collected from the refugees, it provides
room for the government to collect informa-
tion as extensive as possible in order to build
secur ity proles on the refugees, which is use-
ful to measure the risks posed by certain indi-
viduals. Article 33 of the Refugee Convention
author izes State parties to remove any
individual from its territories or its jur isdiction
for “whom there are reasonable grounds for re-
garding as a danger to the security of the coun-
try in which he is, or who, having been convict-
ed by a nal judgment of a particularly serious
crime, constitutes a danger to the community
of that country”. The government’s direct in-
volvement in mapping secur ity r isks of ref-
ugees should bring enough assurance that the
refugees are well-screened for potential threats.
To further enhance security, and save resourc-
es, the government can also build on existing
data collected by UNHCR through further col-
laboration, including new UNHCR cards with
heightened biometric features.
Granted, collecting and verifying
information for refugee screening and
registration is not easy to do. Considering the
conditions in their home countr ies, accurate
and reliable information about a refugee’s
background is rarely available. Moreover,
extracting this information requires close
more information about the escalation stage, see Friedrich Glasl, 1982. “The Process of Conict Escalation and Roles of
Third Parties”. In G.B.J. Bomers and R.B. Peterson (Eds.), Conflict Management and Industrial Relations. Berlin: Springer
Science & Business Media.
inter-agency cooperation both from inside
as well as from outside the gover nment. For
example, as principal responsibility-holder for
refugees as per the Per pres, the Ministry of Law
and Human Rights (MLHR) must work closely
with the MFA and share information regarding
the refugees. The ministries must also cooperate
in sharing information with UNHCR in order
to build a robust refugee database. At the time of
the writing of this report, the government and
UNHCR are preparing the legal arrangement
necessary for such data shar ing. Considering the
relatively small number of refugees and asylum
seekers in Indonesia compared to its neighbors,
and the fact that much work has been done
by UNHCR, the work required by the
government would be limited.
Another measure that could be taken
by the government is the voluntary relocation
of refugees with certain proles to appropriate
communities. For example, there is occasional
discrimination against Shiite Muslims in
Indonesia, but it is only prevalent in certain
regions (for example, certain areas in West and
East Java). There are, however, other regions in
Indonesia where levels of tolerance are higher
than others in regard to religious dierences (see
the demographic and societal section, below).
The Perpres has also provided the government
mechanisms to move refugees from one area
to another, which should make relocation
processes easier. If this can be done with new
arrivals as well as with existing refugees, the
potential for conict because of religious views
can be reduced. However, the relocation policy
for refugees should be voluntary in nature
and/or would have to be done in a manner sen-
sitive to the interests of the refugees.
iii. Opportunities to build security features
into identication and registration
processes, and what is already being done
(by government and/or UNHCR) to take
advantage of these opportunities.
As mentioned above, the Perpres has provided
the government with a legal basis to conduct
its own screening and registration process. Fur-
thermore, there will also be a monthly check-
in mechanism for refugees, where they have to
come to the nearest immigration detention fa-
cility every month and have their refugee regis-
tration card stamped. This particular mechanism
Another measure
that could be taken
by the government
is the voluntary
relocation of
refugees with
certain proles
to appropriate
has been in place before, and the Perpres formalizes
it and integrates it into a broader refugee handling
mechanism. It is now up to the government as to
how it wants to take advantage of the Perpres to
build security features to the identication and reg-
istration process.
iv. Security-related benets which will result
from the regularization of refugee populations
(particularly in relation to the current situation
where governments, in many cases, have little
knowledge of asylum seekers/refugees),
including through access to employment.
In the current situation, the Indonesian government
mainly relies on UNHCR and IOM to collect
data about refugees and asylum seekers. As a
consequence, the government has little knowledge of
the situation of asylum seekers and refugees beyond
general numbers and statistics. As is evident, and as
admitted by some government ocials, there are
many refugees who take up employment or open
up businesses despite the prohibition to do so. Much
of this employment and many of these businesses
are in the infor mal sector, such as being ojek drivers,
food stall operators, and barbers, and therefore, are
very dicult to monitor and control.
Providing refugees with a legal avenue for
employment has the clear benet of bringing
refugees out of the shadows. Employment access also
addresses problems surrounding documentation.
Refugees who want to work can be required to
provide the necessary documentation/ infor mation,
such as ID, address, and contact number, not only
to the government but also to employers. The
employers can be leveraged by the gover nment
to help monitor the refugees. Under the cur rent
arrangement, employers do not have any incentive
to report to the government when they feel that
their workers might pose security risks, since the
very act of employing them is illegal to begin
with. Moreover, regularizing refugees in terms of
employment also increases stability and reduces
anxieties and r isks associated with informal
D. Community Perceptions
i. Evidence suggesting that the regularization
and/or experience with refugees positively
impacts on host communities’ perceptions of
Generally, interactions between refugees and local
communities have been minimal. As one study puts
it, “most refugees and Indonesians described their
interactions with the other as supercial, eeting and
polite” (CWS, 2013). This is both incidental but also
intentional, as language bar riers prevent meaningful
interactions and exchanges and because refugees
try to keep a low prole
so as not to attract any
unnecessary attention. Indonesians do not generally
dierentiate between refugees and other foreigners.
Refugees are happy to be lumped together with
other foreigners in the eyes of Indonesians, since
they fear that if their status is known it may raise
There is currently no systematic study
asses sing the perceptions of the local community
toward the presence of refugees in their sur roundings
in Indonesia. Stories about refugees vary from
region to region and from case to case. In 2015,
during the Rohingya boat movements, there were
numerous reports covering how the Indonesian
public, in particular the people of Aceh, rescued
and welcomed Rohingya refugees to their province,
with some even saying that the amount of aid
delivered to the refugees was excessive (Corben,
2015). But there are also instances in which
the perception of local community to refugees
deteriorated due to reports of sexual harassment
and even alleged rape committed by refugees (Syarif,
2015). This has resulted in worrying responses from
local communities, when, for example, some sought
to prevent landlords from renting rooms to refugees
(CWS, 2013).
One potential problem that should be taken
seriously is a clash of religious views. Since a
majority of the refugee community is of the Shiite
branch of Islam, the possibility of conict with the
conservative, majority- Sunni community is present.
In fact, there was a case where a refugee shelter
had to be moved because local mass organizations
(ormas) voiced opposition to refugees’ celebrations
of Ashura (Apriyadi, 2015). However, this rejection
is more indicative of a broader socio-political
problem in Indonesia, rather than about refugees
specically, as similar discrimination has also been
experienced by the Indonesian Shiite community
in East Java.
Despite the lack of a conclusive assessment, it
seems stories about local communities’ discomfort
with and even rejection of refugees are prevalent
among policy makers. This is why policy makers
are more comfortable having refugees in spatially
segregated sites or compounds, minimizing
interactions and thus conict potentials with
the local populations. Even the Perpres itself has
mandated that refugees be located in special
compounds designated by local governments. In
addition to preventing potential conict, isolating
refugees is also done to prevent mar riages
between refugees and the local people.
How could regularization by providing
access to employment improve perceptions
toward refugees? Access to formal employment
entails more intensive interactions between
refugees and the local community. Getting a
job is “about more than the level of income
that it produces, it propels refugees into a
new eld of social relations organized around
work” (CWS, 2013). Moreover, the dependence
on direct assistance from UNHCR and IOM
is perceived poorly by the local community.
It creates jealousy and misconceptions, not
necessarily because refugees receive 1.2-1.3
million Rupiah per month (well below the
average income and barely at subsistence level),
but more because the perception is that they
have not done anything to ear n it (Missbach,
2017). More importantly, a study found that
having received monthly stipend “limits the
opportunity for refugees to interact with the
host community”, because “few refugees are
motivated to invest in overcoming language
barriers to increase interaction with the host
community” (CWS, 2013).
ii. The programs, if any that exist to
improve/develop relations between local
populations and refugees, and lessons
which can be learned from those programs.
There have been a limited number of programs
carried out by the Indonesian government to
improve relations between local communities
and refugees. Until the issuance of the Perpres,
there was no basis for the government to spend
taxpayers’ money to handle refugees, other
than those related to immigration actions.
Despite this, UNHCR Indonesia notes that
there are some eorts by the gover nment to
improve the relations between local populations
and refugees. For example, IDC Kalideres
had worked jointly with UNHCR to run
sensitization programs on refugees and asylum
seekers for high school students around its
facility. Similar sensitization programs were also
held in several provinces led by immigration
authorities involving Kesbangpol4 and the heads
of villages and distr icts. In Makassar, eorts to
better integrate refugees and local populations
have also been initiated by the mayor.
4 Kesbangpol is a government body that is responsible for formulating technical policies on the issue of ideological
resilience, national unity, domestic politics, etc.
5 See
Outside the government, there are a
number of programs that may contr ibute
positively to relations between the local
community and refugees. The Lear ning Farm
(TLF) is a case in point. It is a residential
organic far m for street and other vulnerable
youth, where forty young men and women
from disadvantaged backgrounds across the
Indonesian archipelago are selected for a four
month stay which transforms their lives using the
medium of far ming and caring for nature. 5
cooperates with UNHCR to bring refugees
into the prog ram. Besides gaining useful skills,
the refugees have ample opportunity to get to
know their counterparts from Indonesia better
and from there, foster mutual understanding.
Another key program that should be
maintained and even boosted is cultural
socialization for refugees and asylum seekers
(Tamaela, 2017). To be accepted by the local
community, refugees need to acquire sensitivity
towards local customs and culture since they
are coming from a completely dierent
socio-cultural background. Building this
awareness will go a long way in creating
mutual respect between refugee communities
and the local population.
iii. Efforts which could be taken to improve
relationships between refugees and host
communities and, specically, the extent
to which heightened understanding of
economic and national security issues
might improve community perceptions and
social cohesion.
One of the key eorts to improve relationships
between refugees and host communities are
language training programs. As mentioned
before, one of the reasons for limited
interactions between local populations and
refugees is the language barr ier. Breaking this
barrier by achieving elementary prociency
in the local language will denitely enhance
interactions, which in turn will promote
more understanding. This eort can also be
complemented by integrating school-age
refugee children into formal education
institutions. The gover nment does not prohibit
refugees from doing so, though administrative
barriers will still prevent them from receiving
It creates jealousy and
misconceptions, not
necessarily because
refugees receive 1.2-
1.3 million Rupiah
per month, but more
because the perception
is that they have not
done anything to earn
it (Missbach, 2017).
Another key eort to consider is
c reating programs that support initia-
tives to build joint enterprises involving
refugees and local communities, as men-
tioned earlier. The programs should assist
refugees and locals to set up joint enterpris-
es by providing the necessary coaching and
access to capital. What makes the idea of
joint- enterprises appealing is it does not cre-
ate the perception that the refugees are tak-
ing away jobs, but rather bringing in jobs for
local people. Such enterprises are also set to
bring local communities closer with refugees
by intensifying interactions.
E. Relevant demographic/
societal considerations
Refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia
come from Africa, the Middle East, South
Asia, and Myanmar. Most are Muslims, but
they come from dierent denominations.
Meanwhile, Indonesia is a large country
with 250 million people spread across
17,500 islands. The countr y is heterogeneous,
compr ised of hundreds of ethnic groups and
languages. Based on Indonesia’s demographic
prole, there are at least three aspects that
might be relevant for advocating refugee
employment access in Indonesia: history,
religion and diversity.
Due to its geographic location in the middle
of historical trading routes, Indonesians have
been welcoming foreign nationals as trading
partners for centur ies, especially those from
Africa and the Middle East. In fact, Islam was
spread in then-Hindu-majority Indonesia by
traders from Middle East, India, Persia, and
China between the 13th and 16th
After Islam was established, and even after
the arrival of colonial powers, intensive
contacts between Indonesians and Arab
traders remained. Further more, travels to the
Middle East were frequent among Indonesian
Kiyai (clerics) and many other Indonesians,
not only to undertake the Hajj pilgr image
but also to continue their education. Through
these intense exchanges, close relations
between Indonesians and Arabs was built. This
close relation was also demonstrated dur ing
Indonesia’s struggle for independence. After
Indonesian leaders declared independence
in 1945, challenges from colonial powers
abounded. One of the ways to establish
legitimacy as a newly formed sovereign state
was to seek support and recognition from
other nations. Indonesian leaders at the time
turned to the Middle Eastern countr ies for
support, and in fact Arab countries were
among the rst to recognize Indonesian
independence (Sukma, 2003).
The historical closeness between
Indonesia and Middle East countr ies is
signicant in two ways. First, it demonstrates
that migrants from the Middle East are not
that “foreign” for Indonesians; some of them
are even highly respected by the local people.
It means that there should be no new social
problem to be worried about. Moreover, they
are well-known for their aptitude in trading
or running businesses, which should attract
employers. Second, the important role of
Middle Eastern countries dur ing Indonesia’s
independence struggle may help appeal to
Indonesian society in general.
Indonesia is the largest Muslim- populated
country in the world. As of 2010, Muslims
in Indonesia accounted for more than 87
percent of the population, while the rest are
Protestant (6.96%), Catholic (2.91%), Hindu
(1.69%), Buddhist (0.72%), and a small group
of Confucianists (Na’im & Syaputra, 2010).
Most of the Muslims in Indonesia are of Sunni
denomination, with pockets of small Shiite
populations spread across the countr y.
There is no ocial gure for the Shiite
population, but many speculate their number to
be around 2-2.5 million (0.8%). Although they
have been in Indonesia for decades, the Shiite
community in Indonesia has experienced, in
recent years, dicult relations with the Sunni
majority. There have been reports of Shiite
communities being attacked by conservative
Sunni groups in the country, in some cases
even being forced to leave their homes and
becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs).
One case concerned a Shiite community
in Sampang where residents had to leave
their homes in 2012 after their village was
attacked by Sunni conservatives. Since then,
they have had to live in small overcrowded
ats with poor sanitation provided by the
local government (Hadi, 2016). The local
Sunni community will not allow them to
go back to their village unless they “repent”
Due to its geographic
location in the middle
of historical trading
routes, Indonesians
have been welcoming
foreign nationals as
trading partners for
centuries, especially
those from Africa and
the Middle East.
and convert to Sunni Islam. The rejections seem
very strong and even the national gover nment
is reluctant to step in, and would rather have the
local government sort it out (Faizal, 2017).
Considering this context, attempts to
utilize religion for advocating refugees’ rights
must proceed with caution. Based on the latest
data from UNHCR Jakarta, around 56 percent
of the refugee and asylum seeker population
in Indonesia is Shiite. Given the sensitivity
surrounding Shiism, it is perhaps a good idea
not to publically highlight these religious
dierences, as was the case with Indonesian
Shiite population in the past decades before
the recent backlash. After all, there are few
noticeable dierences in the ways Shiites practice
religious rituals, at least in the eyes of average
Muslims in the country. If the advocacy is
focused on highlighting the fact that they are
Muslims rather than that they are Shiites, they
might have a better chance of acceptance by the
wider public.
Generally, the portrayal of refugees as
Muslim brothers and sisters who are in dire
need of help should resonate more with the
local Muslim community. The Rohingya crisis
is a case in point. Media coverage of the
situation in Myanmar and the portrayal of the
Rohingya as an oppressed Muslim minor ity
have tr iggered a growing sense of solidarity.
Aid and assistance have come to Rohingya-
populated areas in Myanmar both ocially from
the gover nment of Indonesia as well as from
non-state actors. The plight of the Rohingya
has also been a theme in many sermons in
Indonesian mosques.6
It is also important to take into account
the locations in which the refugees live. Based
on a survey from Setara Institute, cities in West
Java are among the most intolerant cities in
Indonesia (SETARA Institute, 2015). Also
intolerant, according to this survey, are Banda
Aceh and Mataram. On the other hand, cities
that are considered very tolerant in Indonesia
are Manado, Pematang Siantar, Salatiga,
Singkawang, Tual, Sibolga, Ambon, Pontianak,
Sorong, and Palangka Raya. Unfortunately, there
are many refugees and asylum seekers who
live in one of those intolerant cities. Therefore,
their chance for acceptance and employment
may be slimmer in those cities than in others.
6 While this is a common knowledge among regular mosque visitors in Indonesia, it is dicult to nd documentation
of the sermons that is widely accessible. For one of the sermon texts available online, please see this site: http:// For video
documentation of one of the sermons, see:
Employment access also has a practical challenge
as opposed to just a legal one, though both are
Generally, the
portrayal of refugees
as Muslim brothers
and sisters who are
in dire need of help
should resonate
more with the local
Muslim community.
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Yunizar Adiputera
is a lecturer at the Department of International Relations and researcher at the
Institute of International Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada. His research inter-
ests cover from Humanitarian Studies, International Politics and Security, Human
Rights and Democracy Studies, to International Relations eory. In 2017, he was
invited to Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony, representing the ocial Indonesian
partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), Insti-
tute of International Studies, and owing to his contributions in the respective eld
since 2013.
Atin Prabandari
is a lecturer at the Department of International Relations and researcher at the
Institute of International Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada. She is also a fellow
researcher in Center for Digital Society, ASEAN Studies Center and Southeast Asia
Social Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada. Her recent publications are “Indo-
nesia and UN Peacekeeping Mission: Diplomacy and Foreign Policy Perspectives
(2017); Co-author of book chapter “Human Rights Movements: Activism and
Institutionalization in ASEAN in Stakeholders Diplomacy: Non-State Actors and
ASEAN Regionalism” (2017); book chapter “e Question of Order Justice in
Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Peace-building in Post-Conict Societ-
ies” (2017).
for more information about this brief, please contact:
IIS Publication Division iis_ugm
@ko p9057g iis_u gm
About Us
Institute of International Studies (IIS) is a research institute under the Departm ent of
Intern ational Rela tions, Universitas Gadjah Mada, whose purpose is t o advance th e
study o f International Relatio ns by carry ing out a compr ehensive and b road research
progra m. Founded in 2010, IIS provides a nalysis on current issues, conceptually a nd
policy-wise, thematic databases, consultations and recommendations, aimed at
policymakers, re search communities, media and interes ted public. In addition, IIS
also en gage in advocacy and camp aigning acti vities on var ious issues in accordance
with its mission.
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... In the Indonesian context, several studies have suggested that economic empowerment for refugees is workable because the number of refugees in Indonesia is smaller than the total workforce in the country. Adiputera and Prabandari (2018) argue that employments will be beneficial not only to the refugees but also to the host country as refugees might take an active role in creating job opportunities. While Locastro, Alfath & Hu (2019) suggest the government and supporting organizations to encourage refugees to take internships, entrepreneurship, vocational programs, access to education from primary to tertiary levels, and language training. ...
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This article highlights initial findings from the authors’ Global Transnational Terrorism (GTT) Project, which began in August 2006. The case study draws on the database work for Southeast Asia and charts the rise of a militant minority within Jemaah Islamiyah, which was directly responsible for a series of attacks from 2000–2005. The important but restricted role of radical madrassahs and the importance of kinship emerge clearly from the study. On a more theoretical plane, the article shows how leadership “niches” opened up by unplanned events create contingent opportunities that lead to new developments.
This companion volume to the highly successful Islam in Malaysian Foreign Policy explores the extent to which foreign policy in the world's largest Muslim nation has been influenced by Islamic considerations.
Analysis of Trends and Challenges in the Indonesian Labor Market
  • E R Allen
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Dituding Syiah, Pengungsi Afghanistan Di Bantul Diusir Ormas
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Terorisme Marak,Wiranto: Pengawasan Arus Pengungsi Diperketat. Tempo News
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Personal Income of Migrants, Australia, Experimental
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Helping People to Help Themselves: The Importance of Refugee Self-Reliance
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