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Batam rejects Aceh refugee

Jakarta Post - January 7, 2005

Fadli, Batam – Dozens of survivors of the quake-triggered tsunami have found they cannot even enter Batam to find their relatives. Authorities denied them entry because they failed to meet requirements as stated in the city's regulations.

Under Batam Bylaw No. 2/2001 on population control, any visitor requesting to temporarily stay in the city has to produce an identity card as well as a return ticket and a deposit.

On of the refugees, Maswir, said on Thursday that he came to Batam after finding out that refugee camps in Medan and Banda Aceh were not fit to live in.

"I came here because I have relatives in Batam, but it turns out that there are just so many requirements to enter the island," Maswir sighed. "The authorities asked many things like a return ticket, my relatives' address, as well as deposit money."

The 34-year-old arrived in Batam with 30 other refugees from Aceh on Wednesday, by ship from Medan. "My ticket was given to me by people who felt sorry for me," Maswir said. The refugees failed to show proper identification and deposit money.

Every person arriving by sea is required to deposit Rp 130,000 (US$14) per day to the authorities before being granted entry to the city.

The refugees were sent to the Sekupang Transit House where they had to spend the night until the next ship arrived to take them back to where they had came from.

Head of Batam's population and civil registration office, Buralimar, said he was aware of the refugees' arrival in the city, ostensibly to seek help from their relatives.

According to office data, there were 35 people who were currently staying at the transit house.

He dismissed the suggestion that such regulations were insensitive to the plight of tsunami survivors. "There have been people claiming to be tsunami victims but it turned out they were just looking for jobs," he said.