Dozens of Afghan migrants at the Balikpapan detention center went on a rampage on Friday night, damaging CCTV equipment and doors in a protest against the local government’s policy to treat them like prisoners.
“They broke 20 CCTV cameras,” Balikpapan Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Wiwin Firta said on Saturday.
The police have deployed 180 personnel, including members of the Indonesian Military, to the detention center to control the situation.
The International Organization for Migration mediated between the police and protestors, who demanded they be allowed to leave the detention center, saying that they are not prisoners.
“They also want to be relocated outside Balikpapan,” the police officer said.
Most of the undocumented migrants at the center are Afghans who fled violence in their home country and are now seeking asylum in Australia. Some of them have been granted asylum seeker status by the UNHCR, but Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and thus considers them as illegal migrants.
In 2015, some of the migrants were allowed to live at the official house of the Balikpapan Immigration Office, but their presence later stirred concern among locals, forcing the administration to return them to the detention center.
“We have a simple wish. We want to go to a country that wants to take us as there is no hope in Afghanistan. Indonesia is just a transit stop,” said Abdullah, who has stayed in Balikpapan since 2014.