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Indonesian Evacuees Leave Cairo, Arrive in Jakarta

  • Brian Padden

Indonesians, who were evacuated from Egypt, arrive at the Sukarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, February 2, 2011

Indonesians, who were evacuated from Egypt, arrive at the Sukarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, February 2, 2011

In Jakarta, a processing center for Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca has become a gathering point for Indonesian evacuees returning from Cairo. More than 6,000 Indonesians live in Egypt.

Tohiruddin Lubis, who lived in Eygpt with his wife and three children for the past 15 years, was among the first group of 400 Indonesian evacuees to arrive in Jakarta. He says it was not safety or security concerns that motivated him to leave.

He says it was the problem of food, which is becoming very expensive, that made him leave. Lubis says even if people have money, no one is selling food.

The Indonesian government set up a task force to help of its citizens living in Egypt who want to come home as political unrest and protests continue. Two planes have already been dispatched to Cairo.

Teuku Faizasyah, special assistant to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says the first priority is helping those most at risk.

"What we are trying to do is bring home those who are vulnerable, especially women and children, and those who are in special circumstance and feel insecure to remain in Cairo and the surrounding areas," explained Faizasyah.

He says traffic congestion, road blocks and even finding vehicles to transport people to the airport in Cairo are the some of the challenges in the evacuation.

Governments all over the world are scrambling to evacuate citizens from Cairo, including China and Thailand. Thousands of foreign workers and tourists have fled the country in recent days.

Indonesia is one of many countries sending charter flights to bring citizens home. Once they are able to leave Egypt, the Indonesian evacuees are given temporary shelter at a processing center normally used for Muslim pilgrims making the Hajj to Mecca.

Anxious family members of Indonesians living in Egypt come to the center to wait for word on their relatives. Yuni last heard from her daughter, son-in-law and grandchild on Wednesday. They live in the Cairo area.

She says she is looking for information on when her daughter will be sent home.

About 6,000 Indonesians, most of them students, live in Egypt.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said it could not confirm that an Indonesian was killed in the protests. Officials called on citizens still in Egypt to avoid crowds and dangerous places and to continue to communicate with Indonesian embassy in Cairo.