NewsWorldThe despair of Hazara refugees "without life and without...

The despair of Hazara refugees “without life and without a future” in Indonesia

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Footage filmed on January 18, 2022 shows Afghan refugees being beaten with sticks by police during a protest in Pekanbaru, Indonesia. In this country, thousands of Afghan refugees, largely from the Hazara minority, are stranded in transit, sometimes for almost a decade, and deprived of the most basic rights.

A Shiite Muslim minority oppressed for years in Afghanistan, many Hazara are leaving the country for Indonesia, where they hope to obtain asylum in other countries such as the United States or Australia. But many people never get there.

In Indonesia, Hazara protests demanding rights have intensified after the suicide of a Hazara man, Sayed Nader Balkhi, on January 16, 2022, in Pekanbarun. For six years, he had waited to be relocated to another country, without being authorized to work, nor being able to send his five children to school.



The editorial staff of France 24 Observers spoke with a group of Hazara refugees stranded in Indonesia.

Adila is Hazara. She has been living with her brother in Pekanbaru for six years now:

We went to the UNHCR office [le 18 janvier 2022] to ask for help. But the police beat us very badly. Ten men were injured and are in hospital. They beat the women, the children. The police were armed with sticks and running after us.

Niaz Farahmand now lives in a refugee camp in Pekanbaru:

There are about 14 people who committed suicide in recent years due to uncertainty and lack of prospects.

“We are alive, but we are not living”

Indonesia has long been a country of transit, in which refugees spent several months or even years before being able to settle in another country. Most ended up in Australia or the United States. But in recent years, both countries have drastically reduced the number of refugees they host.

Indonesia is not a signatory neither of the 1951 Convention nor the 1967 Protocol, both relating to the status of refugees, which means that refugees cannot settle permanently in this country. They can only stay in Indonesia for a limited period of time, as if they were transiting through an airport and just passing through.

Therefore, they are not allowed to work or go to school in Indonesia, or even drive a car. They cannot travel outside the limits of the city where they reside and, without any source of income, must live on a monthly allowance of IDR 1,250,000 (77 euros) provided by the International Organization for Migration. This barely covers basic expenses like food. In the long run, this lack of freedom takes its toll, says Niaz Farahmand:

Our children need an education, they don’t get any at all. We’ve been here for eight or nine years and a whole generation of children are being deprived of education during their most critical years.

We are like prisoners here. We have no freedom. Some locals tell us that we should be grateful and that we are very lucky to receive money every month without having to work. We are grateful to have food and a place to live. But that is not enough. Every human being deserves to be free and to live in peace.

Latifa Rasikh currently lives with her family in a refugee center in Batam, Indonesia:

We are often stuck here between eight and ten years. During this period, we have no information about our future and we live in total uncertainty. When we talk to the UNHCR office about it, they give us no reason to hope and say that we could stay here forever.

We don’t have a normal life, we don’t have a future, we don’t have hope. We are alive, but we are not living.

“We can’t even send money to our family”

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last August has only made matters worse for the Hazara in Indonesia, who have seen their already slim chances of return evaporate and now fear for safety. of their relatives who remained in the country.

Sharifa Erfan also lives in a refugee center in Batam:

My family is in Afghanistan and I can’t do anything for them. Since the Taliban took over in August, things have gotten worse for us mentally, as we know we will never be able to return home and we are so worried about our family and friends. They are in great danger and there is nothing we can do to help them here. We can’t even send them money. Nothing.

Shiite Muslims in a country that is 99% Sunni, the Hazara also face discrimination in Indonesia, where they are once again a minority. Amanullah Sahil lives in a refugee center in Makassar:

We are Hazaras Shiites, we cannot show it in Indonesia because we are afraid for our lives. We have to hide. Even if Indonesia signed the 1951 convention, we could not stay because of our religion.

Several NGOs have denounced the situation of refugees stranded in Indonesia, neglect of migrant children and lack of government action.

As the number of refugees continues to grow, it has become increasingly difficult to hope to be able to settle. In 2020, there were an estimated 1.4 million refugees in need of resettlement worldwide. Just over 2% (34,400) were relocated to a new country, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has found that 160 countries had closed their borders at one time given during the pandemic in 2020. And 99 States making no exceptions, even for refugees seeking protection.

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