Diaspora hopes

The Indonesian community living abroad has had its hopes raised, particularly that those among them with foreign citizenship will be able to visit their original homeland anytime they please, without the hassle of visa arrangements. But so far the rights of our diaspora remain unclear despite the launch of the so-called Diaspora Card on Monday.

The card only acknowledges the “existence” of Indonesian citizens living abroad for over two years, foreigners who were formerly Indonesian citizens and foreigners with parents who are or were Indonesian citizens. As to what rights millions of diaspora members will be entitled to, “other ministries will issue regulations on what facilities will be given to cardholders,” said an official with the Foreign Ministry.

Therefore it is not yet clear whether Indonesians abroad will be entitled to invest here, for instance, or have their visas waived for a lifetime, as enjoyed by members of the Indian diaspora scattered across the continents, let alone hope for dual citizenship, as several have urged.

The Foreign Ministry has stepped up efforts to prevent exploitation and increase protection of the people who make up the bulk of the diaspora; poorly educated, largely female migrants working as domestic servants. Indonesian expatriates would now expect more from our diplomats in regard to their protection.

Following a number of annual gatherings, either of the Congress of the Indonesian Diaspora or the latest Global Summit, diaspora members have reminded fellow Indonesians that they love their motherland, the tanah air (literally land and waters), just as much as those residing in the country. Like diaspora members of other countries, Indonesians abroad have reiterated that they do not want to be merely seen as remittance senders, though their contributions are often a much needed lifeline for their families at home.

We’re now seeing the rise of the new diaspora generation, the first adults who must choose Indonesian or foreign nationality under the revised Citizenship Law when they reach 21 years old. Even if they choose foreign citizenship, clear entitlements as diaspora members would help them retain their ties to Indonesia.

Each diaspora gathering has included extraordinary sharing by members of their experiences, aspirations and ideas for the country according to their varied interests and professions. The latest summit included a presentation from the Indonesian American Society of Academics, aiming to improve medical and educational facilities across West Papua and Papua — areas that few other Indonesians care about, except for being exotic travel destinations.

We risk losing out if ministries fail to follow up clearly on how far we welcome our sons and daughters abroad, who with their young generation have formed a rich diversity of cultures and exposure to positive traits. Even a short vacation at home exposes local families to their diaspora members’ shock, for instance, at wasteful habits and laziness.

Our people abroad may not yet be demanding to share the voting rights of Filipinos, which would certainly benefit aspirants for political positions. But easy access to their country is vital to prevent overseas Indonesians feeling like unwanted aliens in their own homeland.


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