Refugee Children Have a Right to Protection

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

A refugee child is coloring pictures

“A child so little is fighting with time. For the sake of a dream that often disturbs its sleep. A child so small has no opportunity to enjoy time, forced to break rocks, clenching its limp fingers.”

The lyrics of Iwan Fals song “Sore Tugu Pancoran” crossed my mind when I got home after visiting one of the Sri Lankan family who lived in a rented house on the outskirts of Jakarta. Harshan Chandra lives with his wife and two children. It’s been almost a year and a half since the family arrived in Indonesia after a harsh journey by boat from Sri Lanka, through Malaysia.

Chandrika their first born is now 12 years old and one of the many refugee children who are deprived of the excitement and joy of playing and learning in a school like other children. At present she and her brother had to seek refuge together with her parents to ensure their lives are safe and peaceful.

Travelling on this path, perhaps an unexpected journey never imagined before. As a child, she imagined the journey like a vacation; a boat ride, fun and full of adventure. In reality the trip was an exhausting evacuation, full of risks and dangers, leading to the family to run out of food and money to survive.

Initially, the family was very hesitant to accept my arrival at their rented house. We had never met before. After introducing myself I show her the medication I brought for her father, which made Chandrika happy, “Oh yes, medicine for father. Thank you sir.” The atmosphere soon turns relaxed when Harshan Chandra invited me to come in and sit down, while waiting for his wife make coffee.

Harshan Chandra suffers from a heart disease and asthma. JRS helps to provide the needed medications. Every month, JRS delivers medicine into his rented house. Asylum Seekers and Refugees are vulnerable with limited access to health services. For children like Chandrika, JRS organizes English classes where they can learn and play together with their peers. It is one way of opening up access to education for children displaced with their parents.

Chandrika is very happy and keen to learn English. Because of this, she often helpes becoming the translator in conversations with her parents, occasionally she also mixes in Indonesian words.

“Besides English, Chandrika also learns Indonesian?” I asked her. “Yes I speak a little Indonesian. I love learn with friend,” she replied in broken Indonesian.” You also stay in Bogor, sir?” she continued. “No, I stay in Yogyakarta, it is another place,” I replied. “Oh okey. Jogja far from Bogor?” She asked again. “Yes, take the train or bus for about ten hours. It is about ten hours by train or bus,” I replied. “Wow, ten hours is very far, sir,” she said nodding. Not long after her mother came in with a cup of coffee, politely inviting me, “Please sir, drinking coffee,” pointing to a cup of coffee that is presented on the table.

Chandrika is one of about 2,652 refugee or asylum seeking children in Indonesian. 908 of whom are unaccompanied or separated from their families. Being forced to leave their own country, they lose the right to an education. Prone to be caught and locked up in immigration detention centers not suitable for children, prone to be misunderstood without help and protection.

These children are now present in our midst. They may still face a long journey full of uncertainty, moving from one place to another. Children who were forced to evacuate, have a right to get help and protection so that they still have a future, as stated in Article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was agreed by the United Nations on November 20, 1989.

Vembri Turanto

(Indonesia) Pastor Thomas Aquinas Maswan Susinto, SJ: Pengungsi Ingin Hidup Damai

(Indonesia) Paus Fransiskus berulang kali mengunjungi para pengungsi, menyapa mereka dan mendorong kepedulian terhadap mereka. Ia bahkan pernah memboyong tiga keluarga pengungsi Suriah ke Vatikan. Bagaimana pandangan dan ajaran Gereja terkait pengungsi? Continue reading

Refugees: An opportunity to grow together

If we, as a human family, insist on only ever seeing refugees as a burden, we deprive ourselves of the opportunities for solidarity that are also always opportunities for mutual learning, mutual enrichment, and mutual growth. Continue reading

Australia: shutting the door in the face of a global humanitarian crisis

Yogyakarta, 20 November 2014 – The Jesuit Refugee Service observes with deep sadness yet another sudden retroactive change in the policy of Australia towards people seeking international protection in Southeast Asia. Yesterday, the government of Australia announced its decision to … Continue reading

Kelud Emergency Response

Together with the Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, JRS Indonesia took part in the emergency response in Kelud. The Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, comprised of a diverse group of individuals and students from Yogyakarta, work together in humanitarian disaster response, being present and providing support in the form of accompaniment, counseling activities or delivering urgently needed goods. JRS Indonesia provided funds to support the operational and expenditure of urgently need goods, also presence in the field for two days, on February 26-27, 2014. Continue reading

33 Years on, the Needs of Displaced are bigger than Ever

Celebrating 33 years of being with and serving refugees, JRS would like to encourage you to extend your hospitality and support to our brothers and sisters that are here to seek protection. Continue reading

Vatican: Pope Francis appeals for hospitality and justice during visit to Jesuit Refugee Service

“It’s not enough to give a sandwich if it isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough. True mercy, which God gives and teaches us, calls for justice, for a way in which the poor can find a way out of poverty.” Continue reading

JRS joins multi-faith call for refugee protection

The Jesuit Refugee Service joined together with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and representatives of a number of faith-based organisations to call for greater protection for refugees.

The multilingual, 16-page declaration, known as an Affirmation of Welcome, is the first to involve UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based organisations. Continue reading

JRS Indonesia Accompaniment to Refugees and Asylum Seekers 2013

In May 2013 JRS supported the SUAKA Diplomat briefing on the situation of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia. SUAKA and JRS participated in a Focus Group Discussion at the National Human Rights Commission discussing and promoting Indonesia’s ratification of the convention on the status of Refugees and its protocol. SUAKA continues to provide legal advice and accompaniment to Asylum Seekers during the RSD process mostly referrals from JRS. Currently a more comprehensive referral system is developed in a collaboration of JRS and SUAKA. Continue reading


It was Sunday evening of 9 September 2012. Twelve African men were walking toward a rather big shop in Cipayung. They were some asylum seekers from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Their destination, a place on the third floor of that … Continue reading

31st Anniversary of JRS

Yogyakarta, 14 November 2011 – 31 years is not short measured on a lifetime. After a 31 year journey JRS is proud of the heritage of spiritual insights from Pedro Arrupe who arouse the concern of people for the refugees. This year, JRS Indonesia celebrated its 31st anniversary in many simple ways. Continue reading