Local teachers speak up in a discussion about education opportunities for refugees stranded in Jakarta on Friday. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)

Outta Sight, Outta Mind: the Experience of Living as a Refugee in Jakarta


JANUARY 31, 2020

Jakarta. Refugee communities in Jakarta organized an event this weekend to raise awareness about their desperate situation in Indonesia.

"Dialogue on Displacement," a weekend of conversation on refugee-resident partnerships, is filled with panel discussions, interactive exhibitions, bazaars and workshops by refugees. It aims to kickstart a public discussion on the refugees' experience while stranded – often for years – in Jakarta with no end in sight.


The three-day event will go on until Sunday at the Cecemuwe Cafe and Space, Senayan, Jakarta. The public can participate for free.

The panel discussion covers education for children refugees, women empowerment, and refugees' uncertain resettlement on Friday.

On Saturday, the panels will speak about refugee programs in Jakarta with Dompet Dhuafa's School for Refugees, Atma Jaya's Silver Program, Art for Refuge, and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). There is also storytelling and poetry slam by refugees. An open dinner with refugees can be enjoyed by visitors, by paying Rp 100,000 ($7), they can chat and connect with the refugees.

On the last day, you can participate in the Mehndi workshop, anti-bullying workshop, art session, and playing games with children.

Milad Ali Anwari, the event program director who is also a refugee from Afghanistan, said that this event also acts as an activity for refugees as they are waiting for resettlement in the third country.

"We want Indonesians to know what we refugees can do here. We can do many things. Refugees can help Indonesians, not only Indonesians can help refugees," Anwari said at the Cecemuwe Cafe and Space, Jakarta, on Friday.

More than a hundred refugees from various countries, mostly from Afghanistan and Somalia, attend the event. The refugee communities built learning centers such as Al Diaa Learning Center, Art for Refuge, Refugee Learning Nest, and Roshan Learning Center.

"Refugees have learning centers that teach school subjects because we can't study or work here. We are fighting for our rights through these communities," Anwari said.

According to UNHCR, there are 14,000 registered refugees in Indonesia. Only 556 of them were resettled in third countries who are parties of the UN Refugee Convention,  including Australia, the United States, Canada, and European countries. Only 81,300 resettlement spots were given by 29 countries, down 40 percent from 134,000 places four years earlier. 

Anwari said that the refugees need resettlement to study, work, and have a normal life.

For more about the event schedule, check out the Instagram page of Cecemuwe Cafe and Space.

Stranded, but Fiercely Independent

UNHCR Indonesia representative Ann Maymann said on Tuesday that the agency, cooperating with the Indonesian government and non-governmental organizations, has been running programs to help productive refugees to be more independent.

One of their programs is an entrepreneurship program with the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Amid the persisting refugees' resettlement issue due to third countries' protective migration policy, UNHCR offers three options: voluntary repatriation, local integration, and resettlement to third countries.

In Indonesia, there were at least 13,657 individual refugees spread around the archipelago. More than half of them (7,147) live in temporary shelters in the Greater Jakarta area, 1,979 refugees in Medan, and 1,769 in Makassar.