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In Indonesia, refugees are being vaccinated for the benefit of all


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When it comes to COVID-19 immunizations, refugees in Indonesia, many of whom have left Afghanistan's escalating difficulties, have fallen well behind the rest of the population.
The United Nations is assisting in the reversal of this trend.


Ali Madad Ibrahimi took an old Afghan man to a registration booth behind a large red and white tent in Jakarta's central area on a recent Thursday.

 

He translated the instructions into Dari, and the two entered a large room with blue-uniformed officials seated behind rows of desks.
He stayed by the man's side until a dosage of COVID-19 vaccine was successfully administered into his left arm.


Mr. Ibrahimi, an Afghan refugee who has worked as an official interpreter for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since 2019, had to do his work virtually until just over a month ago:

Government COVID-19 laws demanded an immunisation certificate even to board a bus to a neighbourhood where many Afghan immigrants lived.

 

Mr. Ibrahimi was one of the first migrants in Indonesia to get fully vaccinated, thanks to a private plan coordinated by various UN agencies in late September.


Around the same time, on September 21, Indonesia's Ministry of Health issued a new decree promising to drastically increase access to vaccines for the country's 13,273 refugees, suggesting larger measures toward greater inclusion for one of the country's most vulnerable groups.

 

He expresses his gratitude to the UN team for delivering immunizations for him and other refugees.
"Now that I've had all of my vaccinations, I can get back to helping my fellow refugees who require interpreters."

 

‘Two days full of nightmares’

 

More than half of the refugees in Indonesia are from Afghanistan, with the majority belonging to the Hazara ethnic minority, a predominantly Shiite Muslim community that was brutally persecuted by the Taliban before to the US invasion in 2001.


The Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August was a sobering reminder for many of the circumstances that prompted them to escape.

 

According to the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch, Taliban officials have forcibly evicted hundreds of Hazara families from their homes since retaking control of Afghanistan.


Amnesty International, another human rights organisation, said in October that the Taliban slaughtered 13 ethnic Hazara civilians in Daykundi province, including a 17-year-old girl.


Such tales bring back memories for Mr. Ibrahimi, a former baker, of the day in June 2013 when Taliban soldiers stopped him on his way to buy goods for his bakery in Afghanistan's Kandahar region.
They tortured him while he was detained, accusing him of selling bread to US forces.

 

Mr. Ibrahimi departed Afghanistan overland, leaving behind his wife, one child, and a new-born daughter, fearing for his own and his family's safety if he stayed.
"It's been two days of nightmares," he says.
“It was a stroke of luck that they eventually let me go.”


A smuggler persuaded Mr. Ibrahimi to travel to Indonesia, where he was assured he could be resettled, after crossing the Pakistani border.
That turned out not to be the case, and he has spent the last eight years in Jakarta.

 

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