The influx of migrants into Sorong, West Papua in the post-independence era was spearheaded by the government’s policy of redistributing the population during the New Order era through transmigration programs. The transmigration in Sorong began to be rampant in the 1970s and 1980s, targeting areas outside Java Island with a low population density, including the Sorong area.
The presence of transmigrants has a significant impact on the change of land use by switching forest or other isolated areas into residential centers and centers of economic activities of the community. The transmigration program was once considered a failure and suspended, but transmigrants survived. What is the story behind the transmigrant life in Sorong now?
History of Transmigration in Sorong, West Papua
The historical data of the transmigration program in Papua can not be separated from the history of the Dutch colonial government that continues to be continued by the Government of the Republic of Indonesia. After the Dutch returned to Europe, it turned out that the Indonesian government continued this program by replacing colonialism with a transmigration program in the Land of Papua.
The migrant population is typically divided into two categories: transmigrants and non- transmigrants. Since about the 1980s, transmigrants have settled living in districts around the capital districts, particularly Salawati, Mayamuk, Klamono, and Aimas. These people come from Java Island who is familiar with agriculture, especially wetland farming. Their settlement is near farmland in the form of rice fields and plantations.
Non-transmigrant migrants are generally ordinary migrants who enter individually or in families, from Javanese, Ambon, Makasar, Batak, Buton, Manado, and other Indonesian provinces, connected with assignments or business opportunities region.
With this heterogeneous socio-cultural composition and the area close to the main center of the Sorong City region, the region’s development from human resources support will be potential.
Portrait of Transmigrant Life in Sorong
Although transmigration is considered a failure on a national scale, the program can be a way out for some of the population who follow it. The success of transmigration in Sorong can be seen based on the Indonesian ethnographic journal by Irin Oktafiani and Herry Yogaswara (2020) on Portraits of Transmigrant Families in Sorong Regency.
Transmigrant family in Sorong from Salatiga, Central Java
August 1992, the Karmidi family departed from Salatiga to Segun. As a transmigrant family, they get 2500 m2 of land and yard, plus 7500 m2 of land for agriculture. They cooperate with residents who own land to avoid conflicts of land ownership.
They also distribute the garden produce to the landowner in exchange for rent which the residents do not request. They now have houses and land to even pass on to their descendants in the future.
Transmigrant family in Sorong from Nganjuk, East Java
A teacher named Joko spent his youth in Sorong, West Papua, following his parents as transmigrants. His heart is attached not to his homeland but in Sorong as transmigrant areas. He then devoted become an educator there. He and his family consider them to be part of the development in Sorong. They want Papuan children to get the same quality of education as they do in Java.
Sorong is still an excellent attraction for internal migration. Although the mining sector is no longer the primary force behind its economic activity, Sorong remains a powerful migrant magnet. It is mainly to its crucial geographical location as the entrance to West Papua Province.
The city is often a stopover before continuing to another region of West Papua via land, air, and sea transportation. Transmigration leaves an interesting historical trace. It is unsurprising that the economic activities that grow in Sorong city primarily focused on service businesses, including trade, financial services, tourism, and hospitality.