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Stranded Afghans defy Jakarta lockdown to beg Australia to take them

“We are holding this protest to put pressure on the UNHCR, Australian government and other countries that accept refugees from Indonesia to work on the resettlement process which has been prolonged for too long. Thousands of refugees have been waiting in limbo here in Indonesia for eight to 10 years to get resettled.”

Several protesters were taken away on Tuesday by police, which dispersed the crowd with trucks and motorcycles.

Desperate Afghan refugees defied lockdown laws to plead for resettlement.

Desperate Afghan refugees defied lockdown laws to plead for resettlement.Credit:AP

Indonesia takes in asylum seekers but as Jakarta is a non-signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol, refugees don’t have the right to work and the physiological toll has led to a spate of suicides.

Australia, meanwhile, won’t accept any refugee who registered in Indonesia after July 1, 2014, an edict enforced once Canberra was determined to stop maritime arrivals, and its overall intake has been reduced from 18,750 places annually to 13,750.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said at least 3000 of those spots will be reserved for Afghan nationals fleeing the new Taliban regime.

Those who have already escaped and remain in Indonesia, however, face a never-ending waiting game.

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“The Australian government operates a generous humanitarian program while its policy on combating people smuggling remains unchanged,” an Australian Border Force spokesperson said.

“We will continue to detect and intercept anyone who attempts an illegal boat voyage to Australia and return them to their country of departure or origin, where it is safe to do so.”

The ABF said last week the government had granted more than 8500 visas to Afghans under Australia’s humanitarian program since 2013, with Afghanistan in the top five countries of origin over the last five years for refugees settling in Australia.

– with Karuni Rompies

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