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Message-ID: <199802260909.EAA11705@access2.digex.net>
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 04:09:14 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: Refugee flood fears prompt coastal patrols (SCMP)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

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Refugee flood fears prompt coastal patrols

By Michael Perry, South China Morning Post Thursday 26 February 1998

Fears are growing among Indonesia's neighbours of a flood of refugees as the sprawling archipelago's economic and political problems continue to mount.

Singapore police said yesterday 26 Indonesian illegal immigrants had been arrested trying to enter by boat in the past week.

Malaysian coastal patrols have been stepped up in anticipation of illegal immigrants trying to flee Indonesia's turmoil.

In Australia, private migration agents have reported a 60 per cent increase in inquiries from Indonesia, mainly from Chinese businessmen, seeking residency in Australia.

Indonesia is suffering its worst economic crisis in decades after a 70 per cent slide in the rupiah since July. A million people are forecast to lose their jobs this year.

But analysts said a collapse of the economy would not necessarily spark a wave of refugees seeking permanent migration, as experienced previously with the Vietnamese boat people.

Indonesia has had serious economic crises before and it has never resulted in boat people, said Gerry van Klinken, editor of the magazine Inside Indonesia and a lecturer at Sydney University's School of Asian Studies.

Staffan Bodemar, the Jakarta representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said a more likely scenario would be an exodus of Indonesians to seek work in neighbouring countries.

Indonesia has not had a tradition of permanent migration or flights out of the country. Most migration is temporary, labour migration, he said.

The Political and Economic Risk Consultancy raised Singapore's risk rating to 3.16 last month, from 2.96 in December, citing the prospects of a population exodus of unskilled Indonesian labourers to Singapore as a result of the plunging rupiah, soaring inflation, riots and severe food shortages.

Its assessment covers such factors as domestic political risk, social disorder and external risks from political and economic developments.

This is something which will not be welcomed in Malaysia or Singapore, but it is something the Malaysians and Singaporeans will find very difficult to prevent, said the Singapore-based consultancy's Bruce Gale.

Most analysts paint scenarios based on whether Indonesia's unrest remains driven by purely economic concerns, or sparks a more serious political backlash against President Suharto's Government.

About 1,000 students from the state-owned University of Indonesia rallied at their Jakarta campus yesterday, blaming the Government for the economic crisis in the biggest such demonstration in the capital.