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04 April 2020 – Indonesia

Refugee Women Making Masks for Vulnerable Indonesians, 4 April 2020, (
Refugee Women Making Masks for Vulnerable Indonesians, 4 April 2020, (

Although immigration detention is no longer emphasized in Indonesia, reports suggest that refugees and asylum seekers in the country face a dire situation as it is impossible to keep any social distance as many share rooms in cramped apartments and those accommodated in IOM-operated sites live in severely overcrowded conditions. In addition, with no “rights to work, travel and use public health services, refugees and asylum seekers are further marginalised and the most vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.”

On 31 March, according to the Jakarta Post, officials announced that they would begin barring “foreign nationals from transiting through or entering the country … as the government steps up efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country without heeding growing calls for a complete lockdown to contain the pandemic.”

The GDP has been unable to find any reports indicating whether measures have taken to assist migrants and asylum seekers held in prisons or detention centres. However, the government has begun staking steps in prisons as well as detention centres for minors, including restricting access and visits. On 31 March 2020, the government announced that it would release around 30,000 of its 270,386 prisoners to avoid a possible surge in infections in its overcrowded prisons.

According to a UNHCR-Jakarta 4 April press release, “As per the Government of Indonesia’s protocol, refugees have access to COVID-19 related services, including testing and treatment, provided by the Ministry of Health. Refugee communities throughout the country have been informed of the protocol through various communication channels and actors.” It added: “As a matter of prevention, UNHCR Indonesia is also working closely with partners and the local government to distribute sanitation kits including masks and disinfectants to refugee communities. UNHCR Indonesia provides cash assistance to those most vulnerable and at risk in this current situation to promote improved health and sanitation. With additional funding, UNHCR aims to also expand this cash assistance to more refugee families. Many refugees in Indonesia have skills and resources that can also be part of the solution. Some of the refugee women in Medan, supported by partner Mapanbumi, are producing washable face masks that will be distributed to vulnerable Indonesians and those who continue to work outside their homes in order to support themselves and their families. The refugee women aim to produce 1,000 masks for these groups of people such as becak drivers, street cleaners and the elderly in 18 sub-districts.”