US President Donald Trump’s signing of the latest immigration decree has permeated more than just its targeted seven countries. Muslim-majority Indonesia holds deep regrets about the policy.
While Indonesia is not among the seven countries under President Trump’s refugee restriction list, Retno Marsudi, the archipelago’s foreign minister, told reporters early this week that the Indonesian government is heavily troubled by the new policy.
In October last year, Hazara refugee ‘Hannah’ (not her real name) was glad to receive the miracle she and her family have been praying for after many years of living in total uncertainty in Indonesia: their plan of starting anew in the United States has been approved by the UN refugee agency they’ve been working closely with.
For three years now, Hannah and nine of her extended family members have stayed in the cold and mountainous city of Cisaura, which lies a few kilometres outside Jakarta. With their approval on hand, they were just waiting for their plane tickets for the US.
But last week, Hannah was devastated when she read on social media about the new US president-elect signing the executive order mandating the suspension of entry for refugees into the United States for 120 days. She felt even more distressed getting the confirmation from a friend, Afghan film-maker Khadim Dai, who had lived in Cisarua for years and was eventually granted asylum in the US.
Hannah is just among the thousands of refugees across the world whose dream of getting into the Land of the Free to start anew has been shattered with Trump’s decision to temporarily ban an estimated 218 million people from seven countries from entering the United States. Hannah is once again looking at living with more uncertainties with her and her family’s life ahead.
An official representative from the Washington-based Jakarta’s embassy told reporters that the US President’s move will have a negative impact on the global fight against radicalism—particularly the premise to link terrorism with a religion.
Former and current US officials have expressed their concern that while promulgated as a means to make the country safe, the executive order titled ‘Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’ may instead weaken the United State’s counterterrorism defenses.
Republican Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) said in a statement over the weekend that they fear the new policy will become “a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.” The executive order sends the message, directly or indirectly, that “America does not want Muslims coming into our country,” the US officials added.
With Indonesia not part of the roster of the seven countries, some are suggesting that it may have been due to Trump’s business interests in the archipelago, where two resorts under the US president’s brands are bound to open soon in Bali and Bogor.
Chairman Febionesta of Indonesia’s Civil Society Network for Refugee Rights Protection said the new executive order will only cause more problems to the growing number of refugees stuck in the country.
Hannah came to Indonesia in November 2013 from Afghanistan as their government could not afford to support and save hundreds and thousands of Hazara and Shia against extremist militant groups. Hannah was hoping to have come before Donald Trump took the presidential seat. She feared how during his campaign Trump had repeatedly stated that he would not allow Muslim refugees into his country.
Refugees and asylum seekers like Hannah are not able to formally marry an Indonesian, legally work or gain Indonesian citizenship.
The 22-year-old Hazara refugee could only wish that when presidents sign executive orders, they would spare some thought for refugees like her because “[we] are human beings like any other person.”