Government tries to free 15 Indonesian detainees in Yemen

Government tries to free 15 Indonesian detainees in Yemen

The Foreign Ministry is in the process of securing the release of 15 Indonesians who were reportedly among 21 detained in Yemen for immigration issues last week before the country's security situation deteriorated.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition has attacked a number of targets in the country to strike at Houthi rebels, a Shiite minority group that has taken over the capital.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Monday that amid the security crisis the Indonesian Embassy in Yemen had managed to communicate with Yemen's authorities and found out that 21 Indonesian students were being detained for immigration matters.

"We will keep communicating with local authorities to get clear information about the 21 Indonesians, where they are [detained] and their condition, and to get access to meet [them]," the foreign minister said on Monday at the State Palace.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told The Jakarta Post later that day that "six Indonesians were already released" and were at the Indonesian Embassy in Sanaa.

Previously, the Antara news agency reported that more than 20 Indonesians were arrested by local authorities in Yemen, while a number of media outlets in Indonesia reported that they were captured by the Houthi rebels.

Muhammad Iqbal, who heads the Foreign Ministry's division for the protection of Indonesian citizens and legal agencies, has clarified that the Indonesians were detained by the local authorities prior to the crisis and were not captured by the rebels.

Retno said the Foreign Ministry has prepared a number of evacuation plans for all Indonesians living in Yemen.

The ministry has deployed staff members from the Indonesian Embassy in Muscat, Oman, to remain on standby in the city of Salalah in Oman, which directly borders Yemen. Staff members of the Indonesian Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Retno added, have also been going to Jizan, a port city in the southwest corner of Saudi Arabia, which also borders Yemen.

According to Retno, her office has repatriated 148 Indonesians.

According to data from the ministry, there are 4,159 Indonesians living in Yemen, of which 2,626 are students who go to Yemeni schools and universities. Of the total, 1,488 are professional workers in the oil and gas industry, while the rest are Indonesian Embassy staff and their families.

"Within a day or two, we will be deploying a team from Jakarta to help with the preparations for the evacuation," she added, later revealing a plan to use Indonesian Military (TNI) airplanes to fly these Indonesians out of the country.

"We have also communicated with three countries, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia, to get flight clearances and security assurances for the Indonesians," she said, adding that Indonesia also provided Saudi Arabia with the coordinates of the locations of Indonesian property and citizens in Yemen to avoid them being hit by air strikes.

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