Faces of despair: Refugees wait years with no promise of resettlement
JAKARTA, Indonesia – There are about 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, many of whom have fled their homes from wars and conflict.
Indonesia, the 4th largest nation in the world, is a transit country for refugees, who are waiting to get resettled. Globally, just 1% of refugees get resettled, with third countries like Australia and the United States introducing tighter immigration laws. The chances of starting anew are extremely low.
In Indonesia, many wait long years for an opportunity to start a new life. On the bottom of that waitlist are single men, with unaccompanied minors, women, children and families prioritized ahead of them.
These men's days are filled with boredom and desperation, since Indonesian law does not allow them to work. Thus they are unable to fend for themselves or live decent lives. Some get financial support from their families whom they left behind, while others are forced to beg for food and have no choice but to sleep on the streets.
With literally nothing to do but wait, and no real promise of a future any different from the lives they currently know, these broken men try hard to stay sane, hopeful and healthy – but their cracks show.
Here are some of their stories:
Ali Reza, 37, from Afghanistan. 3 years and 10 months in Indonesia.
“My father and mother was my supporter, give me money. But they killed by Taliban 8 months ago. After this I stay in the street. If no help, I can’t do anything. Who care for me? Who support me? Here, if permission for work, for job, no problem for us. But none. At home, Taliban kill us. Here, they kill us by time.”
Kyaw Thu Aung (right), 26, Rohingya from Myanmar. 4 months in Indonesia.
“We came by boat, 4 country pass. Myanmar to Bangladesh, Bangladesh to Thailand, Thailand to Malaysia, Malaysia to Indonesia. We came by boat. Some children and women die so we throw body in ocean. I was student. Chemistry major. I am interested in atom and nuclear cells. I’ve been here for four months, no speak Indonesian and just only a little English. I stay here and have no friends, only 3 friends here. My family die and I’m also single. Mother and father killed by Buddhist. I see father his head cut off. Mother die after her home burn. Fire. Diesel. Me outside of house with my friend. Me very lucky. My interview date 2018 July for refugee interview. No telephone no money. If I have money I buy food. Me thinking me go back to Malaysia because here my refugee process take so long time. In here, no help. No job. Oh and meet my friend. He is also Rohingya but he only speak Indonesian. He stay here 6 years already."
Jazeem, 36 and Amel, 30, husband and wife, from Iraq. One year in Indonesia.
“Last week, before last week, I go here. Every day I go here. We need to go to hospital. She cannot go every day. She pregnant. 6 months. It take one hour to go here. She cannot. We need big hospital for ultrasound. Need milk, food. This first child. We don’t have money for big hospital. I am asylum seeker so no work. We live in one room, small.”
Salaheldin, 41, from Sudan. 6 years in Indonesia.
“One month to come to Indonesia. From Sudan, I fly to Malaysia and then come to Indonesia by boat. I’m already applied to be a refugee and I have already been rejected by two country - Australia and Canada embassy. I have sick I go to hospital. I get everything MRI and they want to operate. They said operation here, cannot do here but also IOM (International Organization for Migration) send my medical file to UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) and now 2 or 3 months ago they said to me like that. They say we cannot do operation here. Another country maybe, so UNHCR have not find any country to do my operation. Day by day I’m very sick. I’m waiting. I send email for them to help me, I’m writing as well. I coming today, yesterday I met the people and today I coming also. I went to the consulate yesterday they say no, today they say no and tomorrow I will come again. I’m coming to know about my process. I’m reject from Australia, Canada and now two years after reject, no process. That’s why we are here…to ask about process. Before, I know some Sudanese they going to place like US, to Canada to do better. I’m come here in 2011 until now two person go to Canada, maybe 10 to the U.S. but not any process for me.”
Amiin and Mustaf, 25 and 21, from Somalia. Two years and two months in Indonesia.
“We sleep street. Every night raining. Sleep in mosque or street. Only need eat. One day, one eat.”
“How do you get food to eat?”
“We beg.” – Rappler.com