Operation: Opération: Indonesia



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Key Figures

2017 year-end figures
2,970 people underwent a first-instance interview for refugee status determination
760 refugees departed for resettlement
320 people with specific needs received cash assistance
10 awareness campaigns on the response and prevention of SGBV were conducted
2018 planning figures
670 Resettlement Registration Forms will be submitted
260 people of concern will receive cash grants
2 public awareness campaigns will be conducted
0 children will be detained

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2017 13,840
2016 14,405
2015 13,548


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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

Working environment

The government stepped up measures to patrol borders, but national authorities continued to face challenges in controlling irregular movement. The majority of asylum-seekers continued to enter Indonesia illegally through well-established networks of people smugglers. Fortunately, the authorities continued a long tradition of granting access to asylum; at the same time, immigration detention occurred with concerning regularity. By year-end, more than 30 percent of those registered with UNHCR were being held in detention facilities, including women and children, a slight decline from 2015. In addition, the number of people who have self-reported to immigration authorities to be detained because of their inability to financially support themselves continued to grow.
The government enhanced its engagement in addressing issues affecting refugees with the enactment of a “Presidential Regulation on the Handling of Refugees” at the end of December. The Government of Indonesia continued to take a very positive role in the region, particularly in the context of irregular migratory movements and the situation in Rakhine State, Myanmar. It continued to play an active role in co-chairing the  “Bali Declaration on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime”. The government’s support contributed to securing an outcome document that confirmed the importance of protection-sensitive responses, including temporary protection and local stay arrangements, following rescue at sea and disembarkation. 

Population trends

Over the course of 2016, UNHCR registered 3,112 new asylum-seekers in Indonesia, and by year’s end the total population of concern totaled some 14,410 people, including 6,580 asylum-seekers and 7,830 refugees.
While the number of people registered by UNHCR in 2016 decreased by 30 percent compared to 2015, the total active population at the end of the year increased by 6 percent against the 2015 year-end figure. This indicates an important trend of reduced numbers of new arrivals and a higher number of solutions being found for UNHCR's people of concern through resettlement, assisted voluntary return, and spontaneous departure.

Achievements and impact

  • By implementing streamlined procedures, UNHCR was able to increase the rate of finalized RSD decisions, reducing the backlog by 31 per cent.
  • 1,273 individuals departed for resettlement in 2016, while the office surpassed its target with the submission of some 1,228 refugees for resettlement consideration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
  • In 2016, UNHCR rolled out several initiatives aimed at raising public awareness and understanding of refugee issues to further generate support for UNHCR’s people of concern and the organization's work in Indonesia.
  • Due to successful advocacy, UNHCR's implementing partner was able to open two additional shelters for unaccompanied children in 2016, each with a capacity of 40 boys, while a third new shelter for female unaccompanied minors and vulnerable women and children was set to open in January 2017.
  • UNHCR noted progress in the issuance of birth certificates for marginalized Indonesian children through projects implemented by UNHCR's partners on statelessness.

Unmet needs

Despite a rise in the number of registration and RSD missions to out-posted locations to ensure better access to UNHCR procedures, the growing number of people of concern in detention and community accommodation across the country affected UNHCR’s capacity to ensure RSD was conducted within a reasonable timeframe, resulting in ever increasing waiting periods between registration and RSD that reached more than 24 months by year's end. Despite these challenges, the operation managed to exceed its targets for RSD for the year, with decisions finalized for over 3,600 asylum-seekers.
UNHCR was not able to assist all people with specific needs due to limited human and financial resources. UNHCR and partner agencies were unable to provide basic support to 37 per cent of the identified vulnerable individuals, further aggravating their vulnerabilities.


Operational context and population trends

Throughout 2015, UNHCR continued to implement its protection activities in Indonesia, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of a significant number of unaccompanied children. Child protection mechanisms were expanded and community-based protection measures were strengthened. UNHCR also engaged with the Government and other partners to promote alternatives to the use of detention as a deterrent to asylum and immigration and develop measures to prevent statelessness by encouraging birth registration. In addition, the Office pursued a range of comprehensive solutions for people under its mandate.

Political developments in countries of origin, particularly Afghanistan and Myanmar, as well as the introduction of a range of restrictive policies by Australia to address irregular movement within the region, continue to strongly influence the operational context in Indonesia. The majority of people of concern in Indonesia originate from Afghanistan, followed by Somalia, Myanmar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, and Ethiopia. As a result of the crisis in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal in May 2015, some 1,000 Rohingya refugees were admitted to Indonesia and were provided emergency assistance and protection. Over the course of the year, the total population of concern increased by over 20 percent compared to 2014.

Key priorities in 2016

As part of its multi-year strategy, UNHCR will continue to provide protection and work on solutions for people of concern, while also promoting temporary stay arrangements when feasible. Factors that will continue impacting the operation include: restrictive policies by key resettlement countries; mixed population movements in and out of Indonesia (specifically maritime movements); smuggling and trafficking activities; the use of detention as a deterrent to asylum and immigration; lack of livelihood opportunities; and the ongoing protection needs of Rohingya boat arrivals in Aceh. 

UNHCR will continue to:
  • Process claims for refugee status determination (RSD) and facilitate resettlement for the most vulnerable;
  • Promote comprehensive solutions, including for temporary stay arrangements, access to livelihood opportunities and legal labour migration schemes in line with the urban refugee policy;
  • Address the growing backlog of RSD cases by increasing the efficiency of the process; 
  • Build the capacity of government counterparts and raise awareness on refugee issues;
  • Advocate to end the detention of children, identify and promote alternatives to detention, and improve conditions in detention facilities;
  • Facilitate the integration of people of concern within host communities and address concerns raised by local authorities and members of host communities through awareness raising and sensitization;
  • Implement, in coordination with the Government, programmes for the prevention of statelessness, such as promoting universal birth registration for refugees and asylum-seekers, advocating for measures to address gaps in birth registration procedures, and mapping specific populations at risk of statelessness.