Child Asylum Seekers in Danger

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Unaccompanied child seeking asylum in Indonesia

Hamid left Afghanistan without his family one year ago when he was still 15 years old. He was always haunted by fear since his father was taken from his home by a group of armed men. Until now he does not know what happened to his father and seems afraid to talk about him.

With only 300 USD in his pockets and the support of an agent he left Afghanistan via Pakistan to India and arrived in Malaysia by plane where he boarded a ship to Indonesia. He did not know where he entered Indonesia but took the bus for one night through many forests before arriving in Jakarta. After an overnight stay in Jakarta, he was escorted to Cisarua by an agent.

There was no one he knew here. Fortunately one new friend he met on the journey would share with him to rent a small room. But this did not last long. The following month they had to separate because Hamid could no longer pay his part of the room rental fees. He had no place to stay.

“For four days I slept on the front porch. On the terrace of the house there was an old couch that had been damaged. Not bad, I would still have a bed. For four days, I only drank water from the tap because I did not have money to buy food or water at all. I was forced to drink tap water just to survive,” he said.

Because of only drinking tap water for four days Hamid started to have diarrhea. His body became thin and he felt very tired.

Hearing about him, some Afghans who lived in the area offered Hamid shelter in their rented house. Lacking the money to contribute to the rent, Hamid had to support the people who were helping him. Every day he was in charge of washing clothes, mopping the floor, making meals three times a day, and prepared tea when guests were visiting.

For a child of his age, routine work like this was tiring and heavy. He became like a domestic helper, when he was still a child.

“I was so tired and because of this sometimes I would not help washing the clothes. As a result, I would get yelled at,” he remembered.

After a month he was yet again threatened not to have a place to stay. The people he helped were forced to move and look for a smaller room with cheaper rent as they were also experiencing financial difficulties.

“Actually we did not have the heart, but we also cannot do much. We are experiencing the same financial problems. We will leave and look for a cheaper place,” Hamid remembered their words at the time.

As a child living alone in a foreign country, he often misses his mother dearly, whom he left behind in a village in Afghanistan. When asked about his mother, he could only cry and could not utter a word. He actually really wanted to be able to speak with her, but did not have any money to pay for calls. When JRS borrowed him a cell phone to call his mother he was crying for joy even though his mother did not pick up the phone.

“I’m happy even though my mother did not pick up the phone. At least I know that my mother’s phone number is still active. Thank you,” he said in tears. Being able to make the telephone of his mother rang, was enough to raise his hopes.

While registering with UNHCR Hamid experienced another challenge. He was only 16 years old at the time, but was registered as being 26 years old excluding him from special support as Unaccompanied Minor, a vulnerable group UNHCR offers special protection. It happened because a fellow asylum seeker helping him during registration gave the wrong date of birth.

Hamid is one of hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Indonesia vulnerable to be arrested and detained in one of the 13 immigration detention centers, or continue living on the streets in a situation without any guardianship and no support. Often children loose many months or even years of their life without education and dwindling hope for a better future.

Meanwhile, Hamid has been assisted by JRS to live together with some other asylum seekers at a house rented by JRS serving as an Emergency Shelter for those who are most vulnerable. He has also been receiving good health care so that health is improving. Suaka – Indonesian Civil Society Network for Refugee Protection, a group of individuals and organizations that provide free legal assistance and advocacy for asylum seekers in Indonesia is currently trying to help Hamid to receive protection in accordance with international laws and the guidelines of UNHCR. ***

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