Press Release: Inclusive Education for Child Refugees

Last Saturday (12/10) ASEAN Studies Center, Sandya Institute, and PolicyLab held a joint event with theme centered around global refugee issues with specialized subjects in Asia. This event invited around 70 to 80 guests from various backgrounds and institutes to come and discuss the rising concern within refugees issues. To accommodate this event five speakers were invited to offer valuable insights to the problem.The overall discussion in the event was divided into three sessions, which firstly discussed about the current overview of global refugee crisis, then about its recent condition in Indonesia and lastly the rights of the refugee in terms of education.

In 2019 UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees) reported that there are 70.8 Million refugees worldwide, a significant rise from 65.4 Million refugees were noted last year. Many refugees were forced to move out from their homes and countries, displaced due to many reasons such as war, facing persecution, fleeing from genocides, natural disaster, etc. The number of refugees and asylum seekers varies in Asian and Oceanian countries, but in particular to Indonesia’s records of refugees and asylum seekers were outdated with the latest number reached 14,000 people and was held in immigration centers in various major cities in Indonesia such as Medan and Surabaya,in addition to that most of these refugees came from Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, and Pakistan.

This raises the question of what rights the refugees and asylum seekers may receive during their stay inIndonesia, including the rights in receiving education in particular towards children refugees. Formal education is important for the children’s growth as it allows them to build sense of discipline, cognitive skills and satisfying their needs in socializing. Denying children these values most likely will hinder their growth & development in the future.

The Constitution of Indonesia guarantees every person regardless of their differences to receive their right in getting education, firmed through Human Rights Law in 1999where one of its clauses guarantee the right for every persons in Indonesia to receive education rights, therefore normatively this law also including refugees to become the subject of the law as well in receiving education rights. International Children protection law also provides the protection of children refugees on their rights to the education, with specific direction writtern in its preambule, ensuring them to get education while staying in Indonesia. Unfortunately this matter stays in the grey zone of Indonesian legal materials, as there is still no legal frameworks within that actually regulates if children refugees are allowed to attend schools or not, thus authority of such matters were mostly given towards local authorities in the are.

Interestingly, every local administration has their own perspectives on the matter. Some of them are tied to strict hierarchial culture where they will not do anything without a specific order. On the other hand, some took the initiative and starts to work together with NGOs and local schools to accommodate the education for children refugees. It was shown whenIndonesian Ministry of Education gave out circulars to education government offices all accross Indonesia to encourage them accommodating children refugee to local schools, however it is not very effective since local problems are often occupies their attention such as lack of funds, lack of manpower, or lack of infastructure thus making them prioritize local children instead of refugees.

Nevertheless, this shows the lack of policy unity within Indonesia as a decentralized political system still allows local authorities for not taking action at all due to various reasons that are still exist in the region, not to mention the fact that this matter still resides within the grey zone of Indonesia’s law therefore the legality in helping children refugees, while morally right, is still legally questioned.

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