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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid