Jakarta. The government this year will resolve the status of thousands of stateless Indonesians in the southern Philippines.
When last week Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Davao City, she gave passports to 300 persons of Indonesian descent, who for years have been in Mindanao without citizenship or proper identity documents.
"This is an effort by the Indonesian government to protect Indonesians living abroad," Retno said in a statement.
Without the documents they had no access to health care, education and employment.
The Indonesian consulate general in Davao City said it had been working with the Philippine government and the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to register persons of Indonesian descent in the region where 8,745 residents were stateless in 2016.
"The plan is for us to continue our work to settle the pending cases this year, but both governments have to sit together with the UNHCR to set our targets," Berlian Napitulu, Indonesian consul general to the Philippines, told the Jakarta Globe via Whatsapp on Monday (08/01).
Verification conducted by the Indonesian government confirmed that 2,425 of the persons were Indonesians, and the Ministry of Justice issued their citizenship certificates. Some of them, however, are still waiting to receive passports.
The verification process also revealed that 2,012 of the stateless were Filipinos.
The remaining cases are still pending due to incomplete documentation, Berlian said.
According to Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, director of citizen protection and legal aid at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government is going to provide the missing passports this year and is assisting Indonesian descendants in the Philippines in obtaining residence permits.
He also said that the verification process often takes years because many of the stateless Indonesians live in remote areas.