Refugees, Asylum Seekers Sleep Rough on the Streets of Jakarta

Residents walk in front of Akbar Jamili (38), Fatima Jamili (35), Zahra Jamili (10) and Yosir Jamili (13) as they pose for family portrait in front of their makeshift tent at Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/06) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)


Jakarta Global

A tiny alley just around the corner from the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, on Jalan Kebon Sirih in Central Jakarta, has become a home in transit for a group of 15 asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan, South Sudan and Somalia.

Most of these displaced people intend to resettle in Australia or Canada, but for the moment, they are forced to live and sleep rough on the streets of the capital.

The group on Jalan Kebon Sirih said they were lured by people smugglers to come to Indonesia. “I came here two and a half years ago because there was war in my country, Afghanistan. A smuggler bought plane tickets to Indonesia for me and my family,” said 24-year-old Ali Ahmad in front of his tiny plastic tent on Tuesday.

Asylum seekers and refugees are allowed to stay temporarily in Indonesia while waiting for their resettlement application to be processed by the UNHCR, but they are not allowed to work here. As a result, they have a lot of free time in their hands but nothing to do. The older refugees have babies and young children but can’t provide for them. They rely on the charity of others to make ends meet.

“I can only wait for help from the UNHCR or other refugee organizations. We face so many problems living in transit like this. We don’t have enough food and water. This is not a healthy way to live for our babies and children,” Ali said.

“We’ve learnt how to speak Indonesian, so we can ask for food or permission to take a shower at the nearby mosque. The children are very fluent in Indonesian,” Ali said.

Ten-year-old Zahra and her older brother Yosir, 13, from Afghanistan, learn how to speak Indonesian and English using a piece of cardboard where they write a list of words and phrases they want to learn.

“[But] four years of waiting for resettlement here is better than having to face threats of violence and persecution in Maidan Wardak, where I come from in Afghanistan,” Ali said.

The refugees from Sudan and Somalia on Jalan Kebon Sirih preferred to remain anonymous, but they wanted it to be known that they wish the Indonesian government and the UNHCR treat them better, or at least give them a proper place to live.

The UNHCR reported that last year more than 71 million people from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia have been forced to leave their homes to escape war. More than 15,000 asylum seekers and refugees are now stranded in Indonesia – the highest number since the UNHCR was founded almost 70 years ago.

Zahra Ali (1,5) a daughter of refugee from Afghanistan Mashooma Ali (27) lays on her uncle arms in Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/06) She was born in Jakarta, Indonesia (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
One-year-old Zahra Ali was born in Jakarta. Her parents are refugees from Afghanistan, Ali Ahmad, 24, and Mashooma Ali, 27. Here Zahra is seen with her uncle, another Afghan refugee, on Jalan Kebon Sirih in Central Jakarta. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Refugees sit in front of their tent to protect their belongings because their tent is lack of security in Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/09) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Refugees spend most of their day sitting in front of their tents to protect their meagre belongings. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Ali Ahmad Jamili (24) a refugee from Maidan Wardak, Afghanistan shows his UNHCR identity card on Tuesday (18/06) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Twenty-four-year-old Ali Ahmad Jamili, a refugee from Maidan Wardak, Afghanistan, shows his UNHCR identity card. Ali used to be a truck driver back in Afghanistan. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A group of refugees walk outside the back door of United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR in Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/09) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A family of refugees exit the UNHCR office on Jalan Kebon Sirih. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Ali Ahmad and his family member on Tuesday (18/06) One tent was used for five people due to limited space on Jalan Kebon Sirih (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Ali Ahmad and his family on Tuesday. Five members of his family live in the tiny tent. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Zahra Jamili (10) shows her piece of cupboard full of english word and sentences on Tuesday (18/06) She learns English and Bahasa to get help from local residents. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Ten-year-old Zahra Jamili shows a piece of cardboard that she has filled with English words to help her learn the language. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Atifa, a five years old young refugee from Afghanistan shows his pet, a stranded cat on Tuesday (18/06) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Five-year-old Atifa from Afghanistan has a pet cat named Pishy. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Refugee from Somalia prays in her free time in Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/06) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A refugee from Somalia meditates with her prayer beads. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Forced to sleep it rough - a refugee from Sudan sleeps shirtless in Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/06) (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A refugee from Sudan sleeps rough on Jalan Kebon Sirih. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
A man walks in front of a tent belongs to refugee from Somalia in Jalan Kebon Sirih, Central Jakarta on Tuesday (18/06) Refugees from Somalia requested to remain anonymous, but they wish that the Indonesian government and UNHCR will give them better treatment or at least proper space to live. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Tents occupied by Somalian refugees on Jalan Kebon Sirih. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here