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    Rohingya refugees struggle to find new homes

    Burmese Rohingya
    Muslims, rescued at sea in western Indonesia, sit in a detention centre in
    Lhokseumawe on Wednesday (February 27th). The 121 asylum seekers were found
    adrift by fishermen around 25km off the northernmost tip of Sumatra. [Reza
    Juanda/AFP] 
    By Devianti Faridz
    August 8, 2013
    INDONESIA: While
    many Muslims celebrate Idul Fitri at home with their families, for some it is a
    struggle to figure out where home is.
    38-year-old
    Muhammad Hanif, whose parents fled Myanmar in the 1980s, is one of thousands of
    asylum seekers who ended up in Indonesia.
    After living 30
    years in Malaysia and undergoing many interviews at the UN refugee office
    there, he lost patience with the process and packed up his belongings and his
    family.
    They travelled by
    fishing boat and illegally landed in North Sumatra.
    Mr Hanif said his
    family then met a group of men, who deceived them into paying US$13,000 to take
    them to Australia.
    He said: “The
    smugglers brought us to a building nearby the airport and locked us inside. We
    were not allowed to go out so we were stripped of our freedom and we all became
    weak inside.”
    A janitor helped
    them escape and brought them to the UN refugee office in Jakarta.
    They then camped
    out at a mosque in central Jakarta for days before someone brought them to the
    Legal Aid Foundation.
    The foundation not
    only let the family stay at their office, it is also helping to coordinate with
    the Immigrations department, the UNHCR office and the Australian embassy, in
    the hopes of resettling the family in Australia.
    But the foundation
    has faced legal hurdles in helping the family’s asylum plea.
    Julius Ibrani,
    legal aid coordinator at Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation, said: “There
    should be a legal mechanism that puts forward humanitarian values. Furthermore,
    Indonesia faces consequences as an active member of the United Nations. This is
    what we are striving and has become a hurdle as it doesn’t exist.”
    Since 2008, the
    UNHCR has handled cases of around 1,400 Rohingya. In the first six months this
    year alone, over 500 Rohingya have registered with the UNHCR in Jakarta.
    Overall a third of them have transited in Malaysia, while the rest came
    directly from Myanmar.
    At the Fifth Bali
    Process Conference this year, Indonesia proposed and approved establishing a
    working group to address human trafficking and people smuggling problems.
    But experts said
    much needs to be done to address the root cause of asylum seekers fleeing
    persecution.
    Manuel Jordao,
    representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said:
    “Is there or not enough political will to give this additional step
    forward that will transform the Bali Process, not just as many call it another
    forum that is just a talk show, but as a forum that produces concrete regional
    cooperation agreements?”
    Mr Jordao admitted
    it is hard to resettle the Rohingya as the 21 resettlement countries in the
    world show very little interest in accepting them.