Seventeen-year-old Ghulam Rahimi, not his real name, is an Afghan refugee from Iran. He was one of 25 unaccompanied minors detained in one room at the immigration detention center in Makassar, South Sulawesi, when IRIN visited the facility.
Hundreds of minors like Ghulam are incarcerated in immigration detention centers throughout Indonesia that were never meant to hold them, much less for the long periods of time that many of them have been kept inside.
This is Ghulam’s story:
“I was born in Iran. Unfortunately Iranian people feel Afghan people are not human, because of our race, because our faces are different. They wanted to force me to go to Afghanistan, but there I have [a] really big problem. Iranian police sent my father to Afghanistan three years ago and the Taliban killed him.
“My life was in danger so I decided to meet a really strong smuggler in Iran called Javad who made fake documents for me. He made an Iranian passport for me. He told me to go to Turkey and then Indonesia with transit in Abu Dhabi. They questioned me in Abu Dhabi and took my photo and a copy of my passport and I think they sent it to Jakarta because when I arrived, four police were waiting for me. They said, ‘Do you have money or should we deport you?’ I said, ‘I have money, don’t deport me’, and they said, ‘OK, $400, put it here and we will help you.’ After I paid them, they gave me a visa.
“I found a smuggler in Jakarta to take me to Australia, but I heard from other immigrants that it was dangerous to go to Christmas Island from Bogor [about 50 kilometers south of Jakarta] and that it was better to go from Makassar to Darwin, even though it’s further. The smuggler said he had a person in Makassar who could take me, an Indonesia guy, but unfortunately you can’t trust a smuggler easily. Most of them say, we can send you to Australia really safe, but they are always lying.
“The Indonesian guy met me at the airport in Makassar and I went to a house with him, but I was the only one. I said, ‘Where are the other immigrants?’ He said, ‘They will come,’ but no one came and I ran from that place because I was afraid. I took a taxi and I said, ‘Please bring me to immigration.’
“[Immigration] sent me to a hotel run by the IOM [International Organization for Migration] and I lived there for four months. Then they said, you must go to the detention center. That was seven months ago.
“Indonesian weather is very hot and my body is not matched to this weather. In the room, we sleep beside each other, we cannot turn right or left [because it is so crowded].
“I had my interview with the UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] in December, but until this time, no answer [on my refugee status]. Because I had time, I decided to learn the Indonesian language and I can speak it now.
“I’m waiting for resettlement, but it’s a very long wait. I thought I’d be here two or three months, but it changed to two or three years.”