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Seeking Asylum, Indonesia

UNHCR statistics estimate that in 2013 there were over 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia with many of them living in the Cisarua region. It is here that the heartbreaking human stories so common to asylum seekers can be easily heard.

Initially asylum seekers from Iran and Iraq were attracted to the area by a local population that spoke Arabic (Saudi men had historically traveled there for holidays focused on carnal pursuits). Sudanese, Eritrean, Somali, Afghani, Indian, Sri Lankan, Burmese and Pakistanis followed, lured by solidarity, affordability, cooler temperatures and a proximity to the UNHCR offices in Jakarta. Many arrived with hopes of taking boats on the precarious journey into Australian waters, while others came with a more conservative plan to place their fate in the hands of the UNHCR process. Still others arrived with no clear strategy, having literally run for their lives in the dark of night.

The Australian government has taken a firm stance towards the boats targeting its shores (and failed its responsibilities under international accords in the process) with policy having been clearly set to end the conversation on asylum seekers. While arrivals have dropped, unsurprisingly the global phenomena of persecution, torture and violence that lead to large-scale human displacement have not. An obvious question remains: what has become of the souls whose desperate and dangerous circumstances forced them to flee their homelands? With Australia washing its hands of responsibility, their stories run the risk of being all but forgotten.

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