Immigrant treatment 'causes resentment'

Saturday, 29 September 2001
Jakarta Post

BANDUNG (JP): It is feared that an increasing number of illegal immigrants sheltered in the West Java towns of Bogor and Cianjur could cause resentment among local people because of the special treatment the immigrants receive, an immigration official said.

The head of the immigration division of the West Java justice and human rights office, Syaiful Rachman, said here on Thursday that jealousy could easily surface because some of the immigrants are being sheltered in houses in residential areas where most locals are living in poverty.

The special treatment given to the immigrants is quite disparate to the conditions of the local people, Syaiful reiterated.

"So far we haven't heard any complaints about the immigrants' presence, but if the number continues increasing, it may even cause conflict with the local people," he said.

At least 429 immigrants are accommodated in Bogor and Cianjur at present, as compared to only 300 in August, according to data from Syaiful's office. At one stage the number of immigrants peaked at 610 in the two towns, but dropped again after some fled the area.

From the total number of illegal immigrants sheltered in West Java, 216 are from Iraq, 179 from Afghanistan, while the rest come from Palestine, Algeria, Sudan and Pakistan, Syaiful said.

Syaiful said that, in a bid to anticipate the increasing number of the immigrants, the Bogor immigration office in cooperation with the International Office of Migration (IOM), a partner of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has been forced to increase the number of accommodation facilities in Bogor and Cianjur from three to seven.

Accommodation is provided at the Bogor Baru housing complex, the Bali Hotel, a residential area in Cisarua, a residential area in Cipanas, Palar guest house, the Sulanjana Hotel and Lamindo guest house.

Syaiful explained that there is no financial obstacle for the immigration office as all expenses are guaranteed by the IOM, but said that both immigration officials and police officers were finding it difficult to monitor the immigrants.

He expressed hope that there would be no new influx of immigrants to Indonesia, especially in connection with the U.S. plan to attack Afghanistan for allegedly sheltering Osama bin Laden, who is accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, as many as 24 illegal immigrants have been moved from a penitentiary on Nusakambangan Island near Cilacap, Central Java, to Bogor, Cilacap immigration office head Joko Sartono said on Thursday.

They were among 134 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan temporarily sheltered on the island. Many of them managed to escape the penitentiary, he said.

Joko said that the IOM transported the immigrants by bus on Wednesday evening.

"Two IOM representatives came here to pick up the immigrants from Cilacap and we assigned two immigration officers to escort them," Joko said.

The illegal immigrants, half of whom consisted of children, were stranded on Nusakambangan Island after their boat broke down during their journey from the Seribu Islands near Jakarta in August.

They were saved by local fishermen before being sheltered at the penitentiary complex on Nusakambangan. (45/25/02)


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