Arrivals of Iranians, Iraqis, Afghans limited

Saturday, September 08, 2001
Jakarta Post

JAKARTA (JP): The government has decided to limit the number of arrivals of foreigners from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan in a bid to stem the problem of illegal immigrants, which has been a burden to the country, an official said on Friday.

Director general for Immigration Supervision and Control of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights Muhammad Indra said Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans could no longer enter Indonesia without being tightly screened.

"We'll be more selective. No visitors from any of the three countries will be allowed to enter Indonesia from Malaysia, which has become their main port of embarkation, unless they had already become residents there," he told journalists, after a meeting between visiting Australian Minister of Immigration and Multiculture Phillip Ruddock and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra.

Indra added that people in the above-mentioned categories could no longer easily get a visa to enter Indonesia, even from their own countries, as approval from Jakarta would now be required.

"There should be a clear objective to their visit and sponsorship of their visit here, including companies that invite them for business reasons, or their relatives. They must be prepared to take responsibility should the applicants violate the visa conditions," he explained.

He said earlier that four Iranians, who had illegally entered Indonesia from Malaysia using fake visas last Thursday, would be deported, even though a staff member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had sought permission to allow them to stay here longer for an interview to decide whether or not they were genuine refugees.

"We cannot receive them here. If the Iranians are declared refugees and are seeking asylum, they can seek it at the UNHCR representative office in Malaysia," Indra contended.

The number of illegal immigrants currently living in Indonesia is estimated at over 1,660.

Yusril believed that they were not victims of their countries' political or economic situation since they were wealthy enough to finance the long trip.

"We will do something about it, but the Australian government should also take legal action against those of its citizens who accommodate the illegal immigrants," he said.

Friday's meeting discussed the possibility of holding further talks on multilateral cooperation to help curb the influx of illegal immigrants, following the drama over 438 stranded, mostly Afghan asylum seekers, who were not allowed to enter Australia. (bby)


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