News / Asia

Australia Asylum Plan Dims Prospects for Refugees in Limbo

Indonesian police officers guard asylum seekers on a patrol boat upon arrival at a port in Merak, Banten province, Indonesia, Oct 12, 2012.
Indonesian police officers guard asylum seekers on a patrol boat upon arrival at a port in Merak, Banten province, Indonesia, Oct 12, 2012.
Kate Lamb
Refugees hoping to reach Australia are speaking out about Canberra’s plan to bar all asylum seekers who arrive by boat and instead resettle those eligible in Papua New Guinea. In Indonesia, plan of Hazara asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Pakistan to seek asylum in Australia appears out of reach.

Down a dark alleyway off the main road in Puncak, a group of ethnic Hazaras spend their days in limbo.

The mountain town about an hour south of Jakarta is home to a large asylum seeker community - mostly ethnic Hazaras that have fled persecution in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

Most have paid people smugglers to ferry them across multiple borders. They travel from Thailand, through the jungles of Malaysia and Indonesia until they end up here, waiting to board a fishing boat and the promise of a new life in Australia.

But with more than 15,000 asylum seekers arriving on boats already this year, the Australian government is now taking a hardline approach.

Under a new agreement announced last week, all boat arrivals will be processed offshore. If their asylum claims are approved, they will be permanently resettled in Papua New Guinea - not in Australia.

In Puncak, Hazaras like 28-year-old Sayed Kamaluddin Mousani are still trying to work out what it all means.

“Everyone here, all the asylum seekers are very sad. What does it mean that Australia will send some people to Papua New Guinea, for what? I don’t believe it is the solution,” said Mousani.

Sayed fled from Afghanistan to Iran after he was learned he was being headhunted by the Taliban. Later, the English teacher fled Iran after extremists discovered that his brother was working for the BBC news agency.

Sayed has been in Indonesia for five months now and is waiting for his family to send him the $5,000 he needs to pay a smuggler to take him on the perilous journey to Australia.

“I am scared, but I have no chance for living here. When my money is finished what can I do? It is better for me to go as soon as possible. And the ocean is dangerous, most of the people who arrive to Australia say never come by boat, because it is very dangerous. I know this,” he said.

While living illegally in Indonesia, asylum seekers cannot work or study. Most have limited funds. Taking the legal route and applying for asylum with the U.N. refugee agency can take years. Many cannot afford to wait that long.

The more seasoned asylum seekers who have experienced failed boat trips and jail time say that Australia’s asylum policies have changed before and could change again.

Hazara Mohammed Ali Babu, 47, who first arrived in 2010 from Pakistan, is doubtful the new Papua New Guinea deal will go forward.

“When I was here in Bogor, Australia announced that asylum seekers will be shifted to Nauru, but all their policies are in vain, they didn’t implement it, they didn’t act upon their policies. So I made mistake, I didn’t go because of their announced policies, so I think no one can believe this new policy,” said Babu.

Rights advocates say the new policy contradicts Australia’s obligations under the U.N. Refugee Convention - and that it’s not fair to dump refugees in the impoverished Pacific nation.

But even in the face of huge criticism - and a possible high court challenge - the Australian government is defending its position.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs