Tue, 23 Aug 1994

Drought brings people flock to the city

JAKARTA (JP): Buoyed by optimism of finding better lives in the city, thousands of poor people from rural areas in Java which have been severely affected by this year's prolonged drought have moved to Jakarta, a city official has said.

M. Sihombing, a division head at the City Social Affairs Office, said yesterday that on average there were 50 destitute migrants coming to the city every day over the last two months.

"Their presence has been felt since June, from the beginning of the drought," he said.

The seasonal migrants, Sihombing said, came from West, Central and East Java, mostly from the northern coastal areas.

"Some of them were detained while begging or rambling homelessly and sent to our rehabilitation center in Cipayung, East Jakarta," Sihombing said.

But Sihombing said that he did not know the actual number of seasonal migrants coming to the city over the last two months because it was impossible to count them due to lack of personnel and difficulty differentiating migrants from non-migrants.

"Some people came to Jakarta to simply visit their relatives, not to migrate. It's not easy to differentiate them from the ones looking for jobs," he added.


This influx of destitute migrants from other provinces to the city, according to Sihombing, is similar to that of 1991, when a similar prolonged drought hit provinces in Java.

Unlike in 1991 when city officials "ruthlessly" pursued, caught and forcefully sent back drought-stricken rural migrants who came to Jakarta in search of work, this year the city administration, at least up to this week, is being very lenient towards the seasonal migrants.

At the rehabilitation center, the migrants are accommodated for three to five days before being sent back to their hometowns, Sihombing said.

Each of them are given meals, which cost Rp 1,000 per meal, three times a day.

"The meals are obviously very modest but this is the best that we can offer them," he said.

Sihombing said his office helped the migrants pay their bus fares to their hometowns. "We have cooperated with the social offices of the migrants' hometowns in order to make it easier in handling them," Sihombing said. (arf)