The Plight of the International Refugees
    Category: Column By : Jusuf Wanandi Read : 894 Date : Thursday, May 04, 2017 - 10:17:11

    Last month, Dato’ Sri Prof. Dr. Tahir, owner and chief executive of the Mayapada group and chair of the Tahir Foundation, went to Jordan for the second time to visit Syrian refugee camps, in his capacity as an Eminent Advocate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A few friends, like Radius Wibowo, Mediarto Prawiro, and myself, were invited to join him on the trip. He told us about his first visit, how much he was moved, in particular, to see the children, who looked so sad. He has adopted a family and made its children his grandchildren. He granted funding for their university education, put it into a trust managed by the UNHCR. (Disclosure: Tahir is the majority owner of the license to publish Forbes Indonesia.)

    When we first arrived in Amman, we saw a public school that teaches both Jordanian and Syrian children. Tahir has donated 20 schools, each with a $60,000 solar system for their electricity. The system generates $12,000 annually to the national grid paid by the government. Thus, in addition to free electricity, the schools get $12,000 annually to help cover expenses.

    That evening we attended a party with the Indonesian community, with speeches by Tahir, Arcandra Tahar, Deputy Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources, and Nico Adam, acting Ambassador in Jordania. Tahir took this opportunity to help the Embassy by granting funds to Indonesian workers stranded at the Embassy, paying their return airfare, and outstanding salaries withheld by their former employers. The next day, we visited Tahir’s adopted family, with four girls and one boy. The meeting was moving, especially when Tahir led a prayer for the family and other refugees. After some other visits, we celebrated Tahir’s birthday with the community.

    The UNHCR local leadership treats the refugees well. This camp is populated by around 67,000 refugees. The UNHCR is under pressure, with over 60 million refugees worldwide while in 1979/1980 when we had the Indochinese refugees, the number of refuges was only 12 million. Thus, the UNHCR is looking for donations and support from the private sector as support from governments alone is inadequate. It was different when Indonesia was having the boat people from Indochina because we got help from the UNHCR and the developed countries (especially the U.S., France, Australia and Canada).

    Tahir is currently looking for ways to help the Rohingya people from Myanmar. He already gave some assistance to the Indonesian government and Indonesian Red Cross effort to build a hospital and schools for them. The Indonesian government has also assisted around 10,000 of them already in Indonesia. After all, they are our ASEAN brethren and only ASEAN countries have been welcomed by the Myanmar government to help them. We are still hoping Tahir can rally others into this humanitarian efforts. Noblesse oblige, Tahir!