Political economy of pragmatic refugee policies in Indonesia as a transit country


  • Yanuar Sumarlan Lecturer at Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University.


rights to movement, claims to be refugees/asylum-seekers, Bali Process, Indonesia’s refugee policy


After some influence by the Australian government through the Bali Process, Indonesia—out of its typical pragmatismcum-flexibility type of approach to refugee issues—began obviously to apply a more securitization-based refugee and asylum-seeker policy in the early 2000s. This paper asks a simple question, “Has Indonesia been truly capable of (1) restricting refugees and asylum seekers’ movement and (2) to processing the refugees’ and asylum seekers’ claims to concluding parts?” This paper argues that the alleged securitization-based policy on refugees or asylum-seekers has had little impact on refugee rights such as freedom of movement and the right to get a claim processed. The simple reason is that Indonesia has no capacity to launch such a paradoxical mix of ironfist and refugee-spoiling policy. Through some historical accounts of how this iron-fist policy has come about, and how it actually has little impact on the right to claim to be refugees and asylum-seekers, this paper reveals the natural order of this set of policies has failed to restrict refugee movement and to fulfill their right to claim [to be refugees or asylum-seekers] to be processed. The paper finds that Indonesia’s incapacity and thus its failure to limit freedom of movement and to expand refugee status determination has affected the overall achievement of fulfilling refugee and asylum-seeker rights negatively. In a way, this finding corroborates what Missbach (2017) found to be the Indonesian Government’s “inconsistent and ad hocapproaches.” As this paper has revealed by these facts, the national, regional and global actors and contributors of all kinds to the refugee and asylum seeker issue need to rethink the way to understand the policy stagnancy that this paper dubs a “fossilized refugee policy.”


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How to Cite

Sumarlan, Yanuar. 2020. “Political Economy of Pragmatic Refugee Policies in Indonesia As a Transit Country”. ASIAN REVIEW 32 (3):63-93. https://so01.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/arv/article/view/240363.



Research Articles