Hazara migrant Syed Zakriya stranded in Jakarta Indonesia. (Photo: Naeem Sahoutara)

Hazara migrant Syed Zakriya stranded in Jakarta Indonesia. (Photo: Naeem Sahoutara)

In our second part series on ethnic Hazaras, we take a look at life in limbo. 

After fleeing Pakistan many Hazaras end up stranded in Indonesia, arrested after trying to reach Australia illegally by boat. 

Asia Calling correspondent Naeem Sahoutara traveled to Indonesia to find out what life is like for the thousands of refugees there. 

He has this story from the capital, Jakarta.

In Pakistan I met the family of Sadiq Ali, a young Hazara man who fled Quetta in fear of his life.

Now I am tracing his journey to Indonesia, but landing in Jakarta via Dubai, I took a slightly different route. 

Most ethnic Hazaras from Pakistan travel first to Thailand using illegal papers, where they are then smuggled through Malaysia and eventually through the jungles of Indonesia.

Hazara refugee Syed Zakariya says it was a frightening journey, and one he will never forget.

“It was really very dangerous. We were crossing the borders and could see the soldiers having guns. We could expect that they might open fire because this is he border and they could kill us,” he says, “From Thailand to Malaysia there was a wooden boat that could break off in the middle of the sea and we could die. It was all very horrible and dangerous. The smugglers had assured that I will reach Australia. The smugglers just need money.”

But like many Hazaras who attempted the dangerous boat journey, Syed was arrested at sea.

Since Australia has cracked down on the illgeal boat arrivals, up to 10,000 thousand refugees are now stranded in Indonesia – and many are ethnic Hazaras from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Sadiq Ali, whose family I met in Pakistan, fled the country in 2013.  

He now lives at a UNHCR shelter in Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, after he was arrested at sea, trying to get to Australia. 

Since then, life in Indonesia has been full of uncertainty. 

“It’s been two years and five months since I came here. We have no permission to work. We have no permission to move out of the city,” sats Ali, “I have to record my attendance twice a day at 10am and then 10pm. We are migrants.”

Fellow Hazara refugee Syed Zakariya now lives in central Jakarta.

Down some narrow streets, he sleeps in a cramped room that has a small bed, a dirty toilet and a refrigerator.

Life is not easy in Indonesia, he says, as migrants face discrimination from the locals.

“The locals would tease us and beat [us] up because we are migrants. They don’t like us. That’s why I shifted to other area. But, the only thing we can do is eat and sleep, then eat and then sleep. We have nothing to do but to wait,” he says. 

After serving three months in detention the only freedom he has won is visiting other Hazara friends. 

They pass the time sharing their horrific memories of the dangerous journey, and trying to remain hopeful about the future. 

Even if the Hazaras are granted refugee status, they can wait years in Indonesia before they are accepted by a host country.

And it is hard to get by, says Syed. 

“We can do nothing. Neither work, nor studies,” he says, 

As illegal migrants in Indonesia, the Hazaras here play a very long waiting game, unsure of what lies ahed. 

It’s hard, says Sadiq Ali, but he would still not choose to return to Pakistan.

“I don’t know where the UNHCR will send us. We will have to go wherever they would send us,” he says, “But, I will never want to go back to Pakistan because it is not safe for us anymore. Had things been okay there I would never have had come here. Now, I just want to go to Australia.”

Taliban-linked militant groups consider the Shia religious minority members infidels. 

Hazaras in Pakistan are frequently subject to attacks and many from the Shia minority fear for their lives…

While Australia has changed its policies towards refugees coming by boat many times, between 2007 and 2013 there was a period where around 50,000 seeking asylum managed to arrive in Australia. 

In the third part of this series I meet some Hazaras who made it and have tried to rebuild a new life for themselves.

Stay tuned for the final episode in this cross-border series.


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