Rohingya refugee: ‘We are ready to die at sea’

msa
By July 30, 2013 04:25

Rohingya refugee: ‘We are ready to die at sea’

30 JUL 2013, 12:17 PM   –   SOURCE: RHIANNON ELSTON, SBS

Delays in processing could be causing some asylum seekers to take actions into their own hands. (AAP)

Delays in processing could be causing some asylum seekers to take actions into their own hands. (AAP)

Bogor in West Java is a safe haven for a Rohingya refugee and his young family. But with no opportunity for work it’s a temporary solution with no re-settlement option yet in sight.

The mountainous region of Bogor, West Java, is a safe haven for 33-year-old Kim* and his young family. But it’s also a temporary home, a place where the Rohingya man cannot work or study, where his children can’t go to school and where they’ll never be citizens.

Since fleeing political and religious persecution in Myanmar in 2011, Kim has been counting the days until his family can start their life anew.

Eight months after arriving in Indonesia they received UNHCR certification, the proof of their plight as “genuine” refugees. That was more than a year ago. The family now faces an indefinite wait to be resettled in a third country.

“Any country” says Kim. “We not only select Australia, any resettlement country.”

UNHCR spokesman Ben Farrell says for the vast majority of asylum seekers based in Indonesia, local integration is not an option.

“There is some support available through [International Organization for Migration] IOM, but in the end we consider that refugees in Indonesia are in need of a durable solution,” he says.

So far, no word has come from any country. Kim says he is starting to wonder whether to follow the path of others he has met in Indonesia, and attempt the journey to Australia by boat. He doesn’t think it would be hard to arrange.

“There is some Indonesian people,” he says. “If we need that way, we pay them, they are carrying us from Indonesia to Australia.”

For the moment, he is prepared to wait for official resettlement.

“If the UNHCR will resettle us, we don’t want to try by boat. If the Australian government accepts us legally, we don’t want to try by boat,” he says, but adds: “How long I have to wait? Here I am waiting for a bright future for my family and my young children.

“After two years we are waiting, but they didn’t respond to us.”

Since arriving in Indonesia, Kim’s wife has had another child, now no longer a baby. In photographs, the children squint at the camera with indifferent faces. They are tiny, well-dressed, with sharp haircuts.

The family receives aid from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which includes food, a place to live and some basic amenities. They live in relative safety. When asked why he would risk his children’s lives to leave, Kim becomes audibly distressed.

“We have no freedom, no future, no [citizenship], no life,” he says.

“If we stay in Indonesia, also we don’t have a future. So we are ready to die at sea.”

Getting on a boat is not an alien concept to Kim. The family have already done it twice before, once to leave Myanmar for Thailand, and then again from Malaysia to Indonesia. They also know of others who are planning a sea journey to Australia.

“I know many people in here they are going by boat, or they will go,” he says.

News of Australia’s recent change to asylum seeker policy was quick to reach refugee communities awaiting resettlement in Bogor. Kim says the prospect of being resettled in Papua New Guinea is not a deterrent to him or his family.

“Yes, I heard about that,” he says. “But also if Australian government sends us to any island, any country, we are ready to go, because we don’t have any other way.”

HOW DOES REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT WORK?

Once an asylum seeker becomes a UNHCR-certified refugee, the agency will look for what it calls a “durable” or long-term solution for that person. That could mean being returned to their home country or being integrated into their current nation of residence, but if neither of those options are possible, they may be resettled in a third country.

UNHCR spokesman Ben Farrell says in the case of resettlement, the refugee agency will submit people to countries for potential residencies.

“The way it works is we will look for a spot for a person within the quotas of each country,” he says. “It’s completely the receiving state’s decision whether or not to accept those people.”

For refugees in Indonesia, the receiving state is almost always Australia.

Around 605 refugees have been accepted from Indonesia in the last 12 months, according to records from the Department of Immigration, or an increase of around 400 on the previous year. Less than a hundred have been resettled to other countries in 2012 and 2013 combined, the majority to New Zealand.

That still leaves large numbers in Indonesia either waiting to be processed or awaiting resettlement.

There were 1,819 refugees and 6,126 known asylum seekers living in Indonesia in January this year, UNHCR data shows. Some 4,800 of those asylum seekers were still awaiting their “first instance” interview for refugee certification at the time the data was published.

The UN agency notes the “long wait” asylum seekers face to have their refugee status determined, and for resettlement, “may result in more persons of concern opting to take the perilous journey by boats to another destination in the region and beyond, such as Australia.”

The same report also said it expected long waits for processing would continue.

To highlight where this delay in processing comes from, the UNHCR once again points to the numbers.

The amount of people seeking asylum in Indonesia has rapidly increased in recent years. In 2008, the agency registered 385 asylum seekers. In 2009 the figure was 3,220 and by last year it had jumped again to 7,218.

For Kim, the processing delay means his life is on pause.

“We are waiting and watching only,” he says. “Many times, we asked UNHCR but they didn’t respond to us [with an outcome].

“So we are very sad, very sad. Waiting and waiting only.”

*The name has been changed to protect identity

The article was copied from World News Australia: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1793852/%E2%80%98We-are-ready-to-die-at-sea%E2%80%99  RVisionTV gives due credits to original publishers and writers.

 

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