World Refugee Day: Indonesia’s Asylum Seekers Stuck in Limbo

Jakarta. In the same fortnight a boat load of Sri Lankan refugees in Aceh makes global headlines, the 13,000 asylum seekers calling Indonesia home reflected on World Refugee Day on Monday (20/06).

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), most asylum seekers originate from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia and hope to be resettled by the organization in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the US.

In the meantime, many live with their lives in limbo in Cisarua, Bogor, West Java, where four schools operated by non-government organizations provide education for migrants and their children.

Abbas Hussaini, a co-founder of the Cisarua Refugee Learning Nest, told Agence France-Presse that most of his pupils hail from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

“The learning nest is already at capacity and twelve students are on a waiting list as the school seeks for donations for additional classrooms and learning materials,” Abbas said.

At Cisarua, over 20 refugees-turned-teachers volunteer for mathematics, English, computer studies and art classes for students aged between 6 and 18.

“Years ago, when I came to Indonesia, I could not imagine that one day I would study in a school like this,” Iraqi 14-year-old Ali Riad said. “In the future, I want to be a doctor and help people.”

While Indonesia is yet to ratify the UN convention on refugees — the country does not have an obligation to host refugees — the archipelago often provides a temporary safe haven for asylum seekers.

“Refugee children technically are allowed to attend Indonesian schools, but language barriers and registration problems hinder them from enrolling,” Jeffrey Savage, UNHCR senior protection officer, said.

The UN has praised Indonesia for its humanitarian spirit, despite still not taking part in the refugee convention.

“Even though Indonesia is not a signatory — they’ve not signed the refugee convention — they live up to their humanitarian responsibilities and the spirit of humanitarianism that I think most Indonesians have,” Thomas Vargas, UNHCR representative, told Channel News Asia news outlet on Monday (20/06).

World Refugee Day is celebrated worldwide to honor the strength and resilience of millions who are forced to flee their homes due to violence and turmoil.

This year, United Nations reported an all-time high of 65.3 million people seeking for a new home at the end of 2015.

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