Australia pays Indonesia to detain refugees

Asylum seekers in Indonesia.

Refugee Action Collective organised a forum on refugees in Indonesia on March 4.

Mozhgan Moaref, a co-founder of the Refugees and Asylum Seekers Information Centre in Jakarta, spoke by video link. She said some of the refugees are living in detention, others are in “community housing” provided by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), while yet others are homeless and living on the street.

Those living in community housing are subject to a curfew and some have protested about bad treatment, extortion and torture. Homeless refugees have held protests demanding housing. Some have even asked to be put in the detention centre.

Moaref said that nobody would try to come to Australia by boat if there was an alternative. She said the refugees want fair processing of their claims within a reasonable time, and support services such as education while they wait.

Asher Hirsch from the Refugee Council of Australia said the Australian government has been paying the Indonesian government to detain people. It also funds IOM for community housing, but these payments have recently been reduced.

Australia funds the Indonesian police to intercept refugees suspected of planning to come to Australia, and also funds the “voluntary return” of refugees to the countries from which they fled. These policies have continued under both Labor and Liberal governments.

Chris Breen from the Refugee Action Collective said the 14,000 refugees in Indonesia are Australia’s responsibility, and should all be brought to Australia. He said 14,000 is “not a lot”, particularly for a rich country such as Australia, which has a GDP of $60,000 per person, compared to $3000 per person for Indonesia.