The Refugee of The World
The situation becomes dire as refugees in Indonesia suffer unending limbo due to a stalled resettlement process. Many are housed in accommodation centres, others in jails and an increasing number live homeless on the streets. The strain has been too much for some whose journey to safety has ended tragically with their death. This article reveals their stories.
Mohammad Abdullah arrived in Medan, Indonesia in a desperate bid to save his own life, and the lives of his family. Tragically last month, he died leaving behind a wife and four children. Abdullah fled Myanmar to escape the genocide of his Muslim minority group, the Rohingya.
Abdullah and his family registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in late 2012. Their claims of persecution were confirmed and they were given refugee status. After several months in Medan, the family attempted to reach Australia by boat. This attempt failed and the family were arrested and detained in Kupang for almost a year. They were transferred to Makassar in 2014 where they were released into community housing provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The family’s situation remained stable for seven months before events took a turn for the worse. Abdullah was separated from his family and detained within an immigration detention centre after an allegation of a quarrel with his wife. His family was moved to back to Medan whilst Abdullah was kept in detention in Makassar.
He begged to be released, but instead, he was moved from one cell to another. He was given no help and left to starve and die. In his effort to find food, he was reduced to scavenge the trash at the immigration office.
A few months later, he was freed from the cell but left homeless, he slept outside the immigration office for long periods of time. When he was sick, he was not given any medication. He continually asked both IOM and Indonesian immigration thousands of times to be reunited with his family, but they turned their back on him. Instead, they transferred him to a detention center in Kupang, which is known amongst refugees as one of the harshest immigration detention centers in Indonesia.
In Kupang detention, Abdullah suffered from a series of medical conditions and even though he requested medical treatment, this was continuously refused, resulting in both kidney damage. Finally, approaching death, he was sent to a Makassar hospital. It was too late. He had been ignored far too long. Treatment arrived, but he was unable to recover. Mohammad Abdullah died on 26th of December 2018, aged 39 years. Requests for a family reunion were ignored, and Abdullah died without seeing his family one last time.
In Indonesia, he was locked up, forcibly separated from his family, left homeless and hungry, denied medical care, and finally died from the damaged of his both kidneys without saying goodbye to his loved ones.
Muhammad Sodul Amin is a 21 years Rohingya refugee died at January 19, 1, 2019- 10 a.m. He died under mysterious circumstances in Makassar Indonesia. Amin was accommodated in Bogis 1, one of the community housing for refugees in Makassar. He had been in Indonesia since 2012 waiting for resettlement for a durable solution, he has waited for more than Six years.
He finally, received permanent resettlement. Not to Australia, American or Canada, but straight to the cemetery. He has died not from any serious disease, but it is suspected that the long sustained depression has majorly contributed to his downfall. He is another refugee to have passed away within less than a month! An uncertain future in Limbo has been the major contributor to the destruction of many refugees mental health state. I am afraid this will be every refugees’ fate as most of them, including myself, have already been affected by this situation.
As far as I’m aware (being his friend who lives in the neighbourhood), he is relatively normal, healthy and does not have any serious issues prior. However, Last year, he was detained by immigration for seven months. He was sent to detention because on one night, he arrived late past the curfew for his accommodation and the security did not open the gate for him. He eventually climbed over the gate to get into the accommodation.
Since his release, he had been in severe stress and furthermore, he also suffers severe mental disorder caused by the depression exacerbated by his time in the detention centre. On the day he died, he vomited a little in the afternoon. Then, he goes out and visited his friends in Bayankara. Later in the evening, he’s got a severe headache and eventually, his friends took him to the hospital. His friends, Shamsul Islam and Abdulamin were by his side until 2 a.m at the hospital. During this time, the friends said he was in a stable condition, showing no serious issues. But when they came to visit him later in the afternoon, he was not found in bed, but in the Morgue and until now, there has been no explanation of his death.
What’s even more frustrating, is that the immigration officer has not signed on the release of his body from the hospital. He had been dead for two days but neither IOM nor hospital had informed anyone including immigration officers. His friends could not get the body out of the hospital for burial as IOM and immigration officers were not giving them permission. It was only after all the Rohingya gathered and protested, then the body was given back to the community. They buried him in a local cemetery in the city.
Since 2013, four Rohingyans have met an untimely and preventable death in Makassar, South Sulawesi: Nur Fathi Ma, a 14-year old girl, died after suffering from stomach pain in 2015. A 25-year-old Muhammad Isack died as his foot and body swelled in 2014 in Makassar; and the recent deaths of Mohammad Abdullah and Mohammad Sodul Amin.
The fate of Rohingyans in Indonesia
When we Rohingyans fled our country, we left everything behind: our country, our children, our wives, parents; belongings, and even our identity. We live with the constant threat of genocide. Many of us have been persecuted our entire lives, restricted in our work opportunities, forbidden to travel freely. We have been denied basic human rights, including the right to citizenship. However great this pain and suffering, we endured it for years, until our homes and villages were burnt into ashes, and our family members were slaughtered and shot. We were forced us to flee to save our lives.
Last year, the top UN official Zeid Raad Al Hussein described Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingyas, the Muslim minority, as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” And a UN fact-finding mission also concluded the persecution of Rohingya is genocide.
Indonesia, kindly allows us to stay but fails to offer us the rights and dignity that we deserve, and that other countries offer refugees. Indonesia has failed to sign the UN Refugee Convention, and although we Rohingyans are recognized as refugees by UNHCR our situation is so restricted that it is similar to what we suffered in Myanmar.
We have no work rights; no travel rights; no right to formal education; no legal rights to marry, no rights to drive. For those of us in IOM housing, it is compulsory to report all our movements to security, we have a curfew from 10 pm to 6 am, and are punished if we are late. Effectively, all our fundamental human rights are denied.
I acknowledge that Rohingyan asylum seeker processing by the UNHCR appears to be faster than other countries such as Malaysia where refugees have to wait for years. However, our resettlement options are almost non-existent. When Myanmar stripped our citizenship in 1982, we became stateless and lost our country of citizenship. Even if we want to go home, we do not have this option. Our situation is so desperate that we are willing to return our refugee cards to the UNHCR as their claim of protecting refugees is meaningless for us.
Some Rohingya refugees have been in limbo in Indonesia for six to nine years without certainty for their future. Most of us have family members in Myanmar living in constant fear of attacks from Buddhist vigilantes and soldiers’ and most are living in great properties in the camps in Myanmar and in Bangladesh who need our support and help in many ways.
Meanwhile, in Indonesia, our hands are tied, our freedom is denied and we are pushed to our limits, physically and mentally. We are left in a situation in which we can neither help ourselves nor our families in Myanmar. Another thing that saddens me is that many young Rohingyans, who could be the change makers in future if given the right to proper education, are increasingly becoming illiterate. I am trying my best to educate myself, and I truly believe that education is the most important tool we have to end our suffering.
Since 2013, we have conducted numerous protests in front of IOM and UNHCR offices in of Makassar. On the 30th of January on Wednesday 2017, we left our accommodations and went to protest. In the afternoon, one of the UNHCR officers had agreed to talk with us and I asked if there is any solution UNHCR help us with for our future. He said clearly, “ There is no process for single refugees.” we protested on the street for two days, demanding a solution.
However, UNHCR Indonesia has failed to listen to our suffering, Instead, they used coercive action against us. The police and immigration officers beat us physically and furthermore, insulted us. They mocked us by justifying the fact that we deserved and should get used to sleeping and eating on the street, as we came from Rakhine state where Rohingya are sleeping in the jungle like the backward savages who don’t deserve to live in this world.
We regret that we have left our country. We may have died some time ago if we stayed. But here, we are dying every day. In Myanmar, we faced a hopeless situation, that has been building for six decades. In Indonesia, a situation has recently evolved to ‘deal with’ refugees. It is, in fact, oppressing refugees. We are only seeking a safe place to call home. We need the support of the international community to get there.