U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Indonesia

  At the end of 1997, about 100 refugees and asylum seekers were in Indonesia. These included 34 UNHCR-recognized refugees and 62 asylum seekers who entered Indonesia during the year, mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, and Iran. UNHCR recognized only three new refugees in Indonesia in 1997. In July, the last Cambodian asylum seeker remaining in Indonesia repatriated voluntarily. An estimated 8,200 Indonesian refugees from the province of Irian Jaya were living in Papua New Guinea at the end of the year. An unknown number of Indonesian Acehnese who may be refugees remained in Malaysia. More than 1,300 East Timorese asylum seekers remained in Australia at year's end, while dozens of East Timorese sought asylum in foreign embassies in Jakarta during the year. Refugees from Indonesia Indonesian refugees from the province of Irian Jaya have lived in Papua New Guinea since 1984. Many indigenous Irian Jayans have claimed that non-Irian Jayans who moved to the province have discriminated against local people, monopolized jobs, and exploited local resources. The Irian Jayan refugees fled human rights abuses by the Indonesian military as well as fighting between the military and the secessionist Organasi Papua Merdeka (OPM). At the end of the year, 8,200 Irian Jayans remained in Papua New Guinea. No Irian Jayans repatriated with UNHCR assistance during 1997. According to the Indonesian government, the Indonesians in Papua New Guinea "are generally classified as traditional border crossers and cannot be regarded as refugees in any way," or are members of the OPM, a "terrorist movement which terrorized local people and escaped to the neighboring country to avoid being held accountable for the crimes and atrocities they have committed in Irian Jaya." Another group of Indonesians, Acehnese from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, have fled to Malaysia in recent years and live there without documentation. Although USCR believes some of the Acehnese in Malaysia may be refugees, UNHCR has conferred such status on very few of them. A number of East Timorese again sought asylum in foreign embassies in Jakarta during 1997. The United Nations still considers East Timor a Portuguese-administered UN territory, and East Timorese people may claim Portuguese citizenship. Most embassies refused to grant the asylum requests, although some facilitated the asylum seekers' transportation to Portugal. As of September, more than 100 East Timorese had sought residence in Portugal after entering foreign embassies in Jakarta during the past three years. During the year, East Timorese continued to protest Indonesian rule, the Indonesian military's treatment of local people, and what East Timorese call Muslim Indonesians' colonization of mostly Catholic East Timor. Indonesian authorities arrested numerous East Timorese during riots and clashes. Although most countries do not recognize East Timorese as refugees, many East Timorese living in other countries may have left East Timor for refugee-like reasons. The majority are in Australia, Portugal, and the Portuguese colony of Macao, near Hong Kong. Macao will revert to Chinese rule in 1999. Internal Displacement Between December 1996 and the beginning of March 1997, a major outbreak of communal violence erupted in the province of West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). The violence was between indigenous Kayak people and migrants from the island of Madura, off the coast of East Java. Press reports indicated that, as of April, more than 3,000 homes had been destroyed and more than 15,000 people, almost all of them Madurese, had been displaced. While some Madurese returned to Madura, others moved in with relatives or were housed in temporary quarters. The Indonesian transmigration minister reportedly said that at least 20,000 Madurese remained in camps and were "too traumatized by the violence" to go back to their homes. The governor of West Kalimantan said the provincial government would try to resettle them elsewhere in the province. USCR was unable to determine whether the Madurese remained displaced at the end of the year.

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