There are three durable solutions under UNHCR:
- Resettlement to a third country which is a party to the United Nations Refugee Convention
- Intergration with local population – not formally possible in Indonesia, as Indonesia is not a party to the Refugee Convention
- Voluntary Repatriation to Country of Origin
- At the end of 2015 there were 21.3 million refugees around the world. 107,100 were resettled, a percentage of 0.5 (Source: UNHCR – UNHCR Global Trends 2015).
- At the end of 2016 there were 22.5 million refugees. 189,300 refugees were resettled, a percentage of 0.8 (Source: UNHCR Global Trends – Forced displacement in 2016).
- In 2017 there were 25.4 million refugees. 102,800 were resettled, a percentage of 0.4 (Source: UNHCR Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2017).
- In 2018 there were 25.9 million refugees. 92,400 were resettled, a percentage of 0.3 (Source: Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2018 – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency).
- In 2019 there were 26 million refugees. 107.800 were resettled, a percentage of 0.4 (Source: UNHCR – UNHCR Global Trends 2019).
- In 2020 (Covid Pandemic and US President Trump cutting resettlement numbers) there were 26.4 million refugees worldwide. 34,400 were resettled, a percentage of 0.1 (Source: UNHCR Global Trends – Forced displacement in 2020).
The Refugee Council of Australia has put together a number of easy to read graphs about global resettlement over the years.
We hear refugees say to each other all the time that it is their right to be resettled, but sadly this is not true. Resettlement is not a right. Resettlement is the legal movement of refugees from the country of asylum they are in, to another country that has agreed to admit them after doing thorough medical and security checks, and depends on the number of resettlement places a country is willing to offer each year.
Resettlement under the UNHCR program is only available to refugees who are found to have a continued need for international protection (Source: http://www.unhcr.org/56fa35b16).
The UNHCR resettlement handbook provides detailed information on how to identify refugees in need of resettlement, and the requirements for submission under different Resettlement Categories. The handbook also contains links to country chapters, outlining the program of each of the main resettlement countries.
In addition to the internationally agreed resettlement program, each country with a resettlement program also has their own criteria and process for considering applications from UNHCR against their internal country policy and laws. We urge you to look at these chapters.
Process in Indonesia
After being recognised as a refugee, if you meet one of the resettlement categories you may be invited to UNHCR for a meeting to discuss the possibility of resettlement. This does not mean you will be resettled. UNHCR will gather information about you in relation to the resettlement criteria. Before leaving you will be asked to sign a document which allows UNHCR to send a resettlement application on your behalf. Signing this document does not mean you will be resettled.
After your meeting with UNHCR, they will consider all the information available, and compare this with the criteria of each country that offers resettlement. If there is a good chance your application may be accepted, UNHCR will complete a refugee resettlement application form (RRF), and send this to the embassy of one resettlement country. The embassy will not have access to your complete UNHCR file.
General Resettlement Submission Categories:
- These categories are inclusive and may overlap. In many cases, submissions are made under both a primary and secondary category.
- Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs of the refugee in the country of refuge (this includes a threat of refoulement);Survivors of Torture and/or Violence, in particular where repatriation or the conditions of asylum could result in further traumatization and/or heightened risk; or where appropriate treatment is not available;
- Medical Needs, in particular life-saving treatment that is unavailable in the host country;
- Women and Girls at Risk, who have protection problems particular to their gender;
- Family Reunification, when resettlement is the only means to reunite refugee family members who, owing to refugee flight or displacement, are separated by borders or entire continents;
- Children and Adolescents at Risk, where a best interests determination supports resettlement;
- Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions, which generally is relevant only when other solutions are not feasible in the foreseeable future, when resettlement can be used strategically, and/or when it can open possibilities for comprehensive solutions.
In addition to this, each resettlement country has its own criteria. Please refer to individual country chapters in the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook
If the current policies of a country mean there is no chance an application would be accepted, UNHCR will not send anything to this country. This is because if an application for resettlement has been rejected from one country, it is much less likely another country will accept you. It is in your best interests that UNHCR makes this honest evaluation. If the policies of a country change, there may be another opportunity to send a resettlement application.
After UNHCR send an application, they must wait for an answer from the embassy. Sometimes this can be a few months, sometimes much longer.
The time taken to do this depends on many factors, including:
- The resetttlement policy of each country
- The number of people they are willing to accept each year as part of their humanitarian intake, from all of the refugees around the world. A country may set a maximum number they will accept from each country that hosts refugees, such as Indonesia, or may not give any allocation to a country for some time.
- Each country that offers resettlement may change their policies from time to time regarding the groups they will prioritise. For example, each year they may choose to prioritise one or more of the following groups:
- single women who are without family members in the hosting country
- mothers and children with no husband or other adult male family member.
- only refugees from refugee camps
- young people under 18 years old who are alone (unaccompanied minors)
- people from countries in the middle of a war (ie Syria)
- members of the LGBTI community
- people needing specific types of medical care
At different times a country may ask UNHCR to send them any applications from people who fit one of these categories. Alternatively, a country may choose not to take people from a specific background or country, and may tell UNHCR not to send any applications from refugees who come from this country. This is an internal decision made by the government of a resettlement country and they will not explain why this decision was made. If this is the case UNHCR will continue to look for other options, until such time as the country policy changes again.
If your application is marked for follow up by the country you will usually be invited to an interview at the embassy of that country in Indonesia. At this interview you may be asked to go through parts or all of your story again. Prepare as you would for a UNHCR interview. You may be asked other questions about your life more generally, or asked about any other areas they wish. They may give you a long immigration document to fill out and return to them. This document may seem very complex. Just do your best to answer what you can, leave blank the areas that do not apply to you, and if there are any sections you do not understand answer as best you can and also make a note nearby that you were unsure about that section.
If a country accepts your application, this is not the end. The next round of checking begins. Security and medical checks begin. Sometimes this can take some time, even the results of medical testing can take between a week and a few months.
As you can see, the process is very complicated. This is why no one can give a timeline for resettlement. Every case is different, and every resettlement country is different.
Applying directly to an embassy for resettlement.
A recognised refugee may also choose to apply directly to the embassy of a resettlement country, bypassing the UNHCR resettlement process. Anyone wishing to do this should contact the embassy of the country they wish to apply to, and ask how they do this. Each country has different policies, different documents and a different application process.
Be aware, embassies may say of course you can apply….but will not volunteer the information that direct applications often have a very low rate of acceptance.
If you chose to apply directly through an embassy and you are rejected, this usually will not stop you from applying again at another time, but check with the embassy about their country’s policies regarding this.
Some countries also have options for private sponsorship. You must check the government immigration pages for the country you are interested in to see if this is possible, and what the criteria for this is.
2. Intergration with local population
This is not possible in Indonesia, as Indonesia has not signed the Refugee Convention and does not have any laws allowing refugees to permanently remain here. Integration may happen in an informal way, such as becoming friends with your Indonesian neighbours, learning the Indonesian language, maybe even a religious marriage to an Indonesian citizen in a Muslim, Christian or other ceremony. A religious marriage is different to a legal marriage, and sadly, currently there are no laws allowing a refugee to legally marry, work, or study at university in Indonesia.
3. Voluntary repatriation
A refugee may make the decision to return to their home country voluntarily. This sometimes happens if a family member becomes ill or passes away, leaving other vulnerable family members behind. Sometimes a refugee has been in Indonesia for a long time and does not believe they will ever be resettled and able to move forward with their lives. They may decide to take the risk of returning home, where at least they can see their family again even if it is dangerous.
If a refugee is considering this, they should speak with UNHCR. UNHCR will consider all of the available country information and make a decision whether it is safe for the refugee to return. If they believe it is, UNHCR partners such as IOM (International Organisation for Migration) will organize the refugees return. If UNHCR does not believe it is safe they will be unable to assist the refugee to return. The refugee may still decide to return on their own without the assistance of UNHCR, however without a valid passport to leave Indonesia this may be very difficult.
Returning home does not mean you can never claim asylum again. If you are again persecuted and forced you to flee, you have a right to apply for asylum again.
Lastly, if UNHCR decides a country is safe for return, refugees from that country living in Indonesia may be repatriated back to their home country. For example, a war broke out and many people fled the country and were found to need protection. 5 years later peace was restored, a strong government in place and rebuilding had move forward enough to support a returning population. This process is complex and to our knowledge has never happened to any refugee in Indonesia.
What can you do?
Many refugees in Indonesia become sadder and more frustrated over time. You may feel you cannot move forward, you cannot return home to danger, but you also cannot stay where you are any longer, with no legal rights to work, study or marry. It can also be difficult to watch people who arrived after you leaving for resettlement before you. It is important to remember there is no queue for resettlement. It is based on agreed criteria. Each case is different. We suggest you get involved with helping others. It gives you something to do with your days, helps you to know you are not alone, creating stronger friendships, and can also help you feel more at home here. Check out other pages for more information and suggestions.
What can people in other countries do to help?
People in countries that accept refugees for resettlement can meet with their local politicians to talk about this issue, join groups, write letters to media, speak to others about this. If the government of a resettlement country is pressured to do more by a big enough number of people, there is an increased likelihood they will consider changing government policies in this area.
If resettlement countries allow skilled visas for refugees, or more family reunion visas, this will also give more opportunities. Talk to any family members, friends, cultural or religious groups you have connections with in resettlement countries about how difficult your life is. Ask them to make appointments with politicians to talk to them directly about this. Many organisations around the world already campaign to governments about this. The higher the number of citizens that pressure their governments to act, the more likely governments will act.