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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.