Wed, 16 Jul 2003

Batam plans to expel illegal residents

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam, Riau

Batam mayoralty administration plans to send home all domestic migrants who cannot show their Batam identity cards in an operation aimed at curbing crime on the island located in Riau province, officials here said on Tuesday.

Batam population office head Zulkifli said the probe would begin later this month to check the IDs, locally known as KTP, of the more than 530,000 residents living on the industrial island.

"Anyone who does not have a proper ID will be sent back to their home province. But we will still give them some opportunity to arrange for a proper ID if they qualify as a legal resident," he told The Jakarta Post.

Zulkifli did not specify a deadline.

Based on data from the local population office, only around 388,000 of the 530,000 people in Batam hold legitimate identity cards from the mayoralty administration.

"It means that around 142,000 residents do not have IDs," Zulkifli added.

He said the ID checks will be done later this month across the island, but added that his office would not reveal the precise timetable in order to prevent unexpected problems.

The ID action would hopefully cut down on the increasing rate of crimes in Batam, blamed largely on illegal migrants, and to keep tabs on the legal residents, Zulkifli said.

The planned raids have, however, sparked protests from local residents and activists, who accuse the Batam administration of trying to collect exorbitant fees from people who do not have a valid ID card.

"I think what will be done by the city administration is extreme, amid the current difficulties for residents to make a living in Batam," said Yudi Kurnain, chairman of non-governmental organization the Young People's Front (BOM).

He said that if the Batam administration truly wanted to reregister local residents, it should just make it easier go through the proper ID card procedures.

Yudi said the large number of residents in Batam without proper resident permits was clear evidence of the difficulties involved in arranging IDs, including the high fees charged, all of which prevents many from obtaining one.

Yanna Imelda Rappar, a 25-year-old migrant resident from Tetelu district in North Sulawesi, admitted that it was too expensive to obtain an ID in Batam compared to her home province.

Recalling her friends' experience in arranging IDs at the Batu Ampar subdistrict in Batam, officials there charged them Rp 300,000 each.

"I've just begun to work here. How can I fork out half of my salary to get an ID? If the Batam administration wants to send me home, I will leave it to them, provided they give me transportation money to get back," Yanna said.

Despite the relatively high cost, each local administration has the legal right to determine the fee charged for ID cards.

Most of the people living in Batam, just 20 kilometers from Singapore, are migrants from provinces across the country, who went there to find jobs after it was turned into an industrial island during former president Soeharto's rule.

The influx of migrants has long been a serious issue and the cause of many social problems, but essentially remains unresolved.