Do You Commemorate Independence Day?

By Yasmine Soraya,
Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (Netherlands).
(Editor: Cilia Mather)

Sixty seven years is a quite old for human being. At this age, a person perhaps is already retired and enjoying his/her old age. However, such an age is not considered old for a country. At such an age, a country is still developing and growing – as is Indonesia, our beloved country. Sixty years ago, Soekarno and Hatta declared Independence for Indonesia. Freedom from being a colony. Freedom for all Indonesians.

On this day, Indonesian people all over the world commemorate their Independence Day. This includes those of us in the Netherlands who have a ceremony on 17th August each year, followed by a bazaar on 1st September. But do we all commemorate this Day?

Please meet Ahmad. He originally comes from Indonesia and has been living with his family in the Netherlands for more than 9 years. A father of 3 children, he works daily as a domestic worker, sometimes also as a gardener, sometimes doing house painting as well.

Ahmad is undocumented. He has no valid permit to stay in the Netherlands. He came with a tourist visa and stayed on when his visa was no longer valid. He stayed to work, to pursue a better future for his life, his family and his children. It is not easy for him to live and to work in the Netherlands without documents. What he holds as identity is only his passport, his Indonesian passport.

With his passport, Ahmad could send money to his parents in Indonesia. With his passport, he could easily show his ID when he goes to hospital or to the doctor to access his basic right to healthcare. With his passport, he is acknowledged as Indonesian person.

Unfortunately, Ahmad can no longer enjoy his rights of identity. When his passport ran out, he could not extend or renew it. He could no longer have a passport.

One of the requirements to extend or renew an Indonesian passport in the Royal Kingdom of the Netherlands, as accepted by the Indonesian Embassy, is an uitreksel. This is a statement of domicile issued by the local government in the Netherlands.  Obviously as an undocumented person, Ahmad could not fulfil the requirements to get an uitreksel. So, instead of granting a renewed passport, the Indonesian Embassy gave him a travel document (Surat Perjalanan Laksana Passport/SPLP).

But why has the Indonesian Embassy in the Netherlands applied such policy? Indonesian Immigration Law No.6 of 2011 has no complex requirements for Indonesian citizens to extend or renew their passport. According to this law, when an Indonesian person cannot provide a residence permit, they can give some other evidence of their domicile in that country. On other hand, a travel document in lieu of a passport is issued where the purpose is to return that person to Indonesia (based on Law No.6 of 2011 jo Government Regulation No.36 of 1994). So, would this be the main reason why our Embassy in the Netherlands has decided to issue travel documents? To make their citizens go home?

Such a policy is not applied in other countries. The Indonesian Embassy in the United States or in Germany has no difficult requirements for Indonesian citizens to fulfil when they want to extend or renew their passport. So why does the Indonesian Embassy in the Netherlands do things differently?

A travel document in lieu of a passport/SPLP is not an ID card. So Ahmad now has difficulties sending money back to his family in Indonesia. In the end, he has to send money through other people who offer a remittance service via their private bank accounts. Even though without any security, Ahmad uses this way to send his money back because he has no other option.

An SPLP/travel document in lieu of a passport is valid for two years. When the two years are up, Ahmad must extend or renew it. Extending a SPLP is not regulated under law, however, and the Indonesian Embassy in the Netherlands has declared some further requirements which are also difficult to fulfil. Ahmad must now provide his birth certificate, though he did not carry it to the Netherlands. Ahmad said that a few years ago he could extend his SPLP without his birth certificate. So why has this policy changed, and why does the Embassy apply a policy which is so difficult to fulfil? Why does the Embassy make it so difficult for its own people?

Ahmad has ended up with neither a passport nor an SPLP. He is fully undocumented. If he was considered as a stateless person, he could file an asylum application and get his basic rights. But he is not ‘stateless’. So Ahmad has ended up in a limbo situation. He has no documents; he has no identity card.

So is Ahmad still acknowledged as Indonesian? Does he commemorate Indonesian Independence Day today?

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