Living in Uncertainty: Refugees in Indonesia

Why is it important talking about refugee issue?

According to UNHCR, there are approximately 65.6 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. The rise of conflicts and war in countries such as Syria, Myanmar, South Sudan have driven huge number of people to flee from their area/ home country and force them to seek protection across international borders. This is the refugee crisis.

Refugee crisis needs to be addressed with participation of many stakeholders. We cannot expect solely on the government or UNHCR to address this issue. Before we look further into this issue, we should know about the term refugee which often mistaken to have the same definition as migrants. Refugees are people fleeing their home country due to persecution or conflict whereas migrants are those who choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons ( War and fear of persecution are the two main reasons these refugees flee from their area or country. They are often subjected to target killing or death threats and most of them have lost their family members due to this.

The journey they took from their country to the transit country was not easy either. They had to sell everything they have so that they can have people smuggled them to the transit country.

What’s the Refugee situation now in Indonesia?

According to UNHCR there are approximately 14.000 refugee and asylum seekers in Indonesia. Indonesia is not a destination country but merely as a transit country. Indonesia itself is not a signatory to the UN convention on Refugee, therefore, we are not responsible to meet the need of the refugees stuck in Indonesia. However, President Joko Widodo signed the Presidential Decree No. 125/2016 on the Treatment of Refugees from Overseas. The decree has made a significant influence on the domestic politics as first, the term refugee is now used by all the government agency as “a foreigner who resides within the territory of the Republic of Indonesia due to a well-founded fear of persecution”. Before that, the authority called anyone who entered Indonesia’s border without a permit as “illegal immigrants”. Second, the decree sets a number of minimum standards for refugee shelters such as health care, provision of clean water, drink, clothing, food. It also states on the decree that  refugees can be moved from one shelter to another for family unification. Third, the decree sets a standardized practice of “non-refoulement” which means that Indonesia is not allowed to send these people back to the country where they fled from. Repatriation will only be exercised if the refugee concerned agrees.

Indonesia has not yet ratified the convention on refugee so UNHCR has the mandate to provide assistance to the persons of concern. UNHCR itself has limited budget, hence it cannot financially support all the refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia. Refugees in Indonesia face some problems ranging from financial problem to health problem. One of the main problems they face is the protracted waiting times. One can even wait until 5 even 6 years to be resettled.  This particular problem has impacted the well-being of these refugees as it takes toll on their health and financial status. Some of the refugees rent a house or apartment and some live in a detention center. They rely upon their families back home or the ones who have been resettled in the third country.  To rent a house in Indonesia is definitely not cheap. I was fortunate enough to have spent 4 months living in Cisarua, West Java with the refugee community there. I have asked them how much they pay for the rent of the house per month. It ranges from 1.5-3 million rupiah. If you do the math, and suppose they are going to stay here for 4 years and the cost for the rent per year is 24 million rupiah, so it is 96 million rupiah in total. It is definitely not a small money at all. Not to mention their daily needs, etc.

All the thing happening does really impact upon their well-being and some of them have even suffered from health decline due to this particular issue.

What do they usually do every day?

I cannot speak for the other refugees in other part of Indonesia as I have only lived and observed the way of living of refugee community in Cisarua, West Java. Most of the refugees do not have many things inside their house. Only carpets and very few electronics, kitchenware. They do not have much to do as they confessed to me about their troubling situation living in Indonesia. They are bored because they spend most of their days sitting or sleeping at home (p.s: they are not allowed to work here). One of the families that I have interviewed told me that it is definitely not easy to wake up every day just to sit and play with phones and there is very few things to do, and the situation they’re going through affects a lot on their health as they tend to get stressed thinking about their problem and all and it definitely takes toll on them.

How does it affect the children?

Children in particular are vulnerable, let alone refugee children who have been exposed to such dreadful experience and events in their early life. Some of them have to endure a great pain of losing family members to conflict or terrorism. These experiences are feared to worsen their current situation. Not to mention that they do not have access to education, or to have very limited access to education. A few of the refugee children have entered local school but many of them are reluctant to do so as they have to be fluent in Bahasa and any other administrative issue which they concern about. All the situation that these refugee children have to face is feared to have negative effects on their psychosocial development. Erik Erikson classified pyschosocial development into 8 stages in which divided per age and each stage has its own developmental task in which one has to accomplished. A developmental task is a task that arises at or about a certain period in life, unsuccessful achievement of which leads to inability to perform tasks associated with the next period or stage in life ( 

These refugee children are exposed to traumatic experiences and now face difficult situation as they temporarily live in Indonesia and these conditions could affect the effort to achieving their developmental task. Suppose 16 years old children who, according to Erikson, are on the stage identity vs identity confusion. If they cannot find and get the resources needed to help them in achieving their current developmental task which is to find their identity, what their dream is, how to achieve their dream, and so on, they will face identity confusion in where they do not know where they’re going next, and what are their dreams, and how to achieve them, and they will switch goals once in a while because they are not so sure yet.

What can you say from the Children you’ve interviewed?

I can say that they are all strong, resilient children. Despite their past and current situation, they remain positive, which is so amazing, given the fact that they have lost their family member, they received death threats and everything. But surprisingly, they still remain to have dreams. They know exactly what they wanna do in the future and what should they do to achieve their dreams. In fact they are working towards it now. One of the children that I interviewed told me that she wants to become a police woman. She’s inspired by the movie she saw back in Afghanistan. She said that she wanted to find the terrorists so that she can save people in Afghanistan. It is such a noble dream, isn’t it? One of them told me that after all that she has gone and is currently going through, she wants to help refugees after she is resettled in the third country. She said she knows how it feels like being a refugee so she wants to help. Aren’t they amazing?

From my research about refugee children, I have found several findings:

1) Media plays a great part 

Most of them found the idea of what they wanna do and what they wanna become in the future from the Media. We can say that Media is the first to help them initiate the idea of their future. One of the children is inspired to become a leader after reading a biography about Mahatma Gandhi.

2) Teachers ROCK!

Yeah teachers rock!! They  inspire these children with their hard work. They are volunteers in this learning center which means they are not being paid for what they do. And that inspires these children. Even when they’re not being paid, they work tirelessly and give the best they for the children. These teachers also constantly give them motivational speech and always remind them not to lose hope and always stay positive. So, now wonder these children are so positive!

3) Community and Family Play Great Role All Together

People are resilient because they are supported by resources that enable them to function well. These children are not only being supported by their family but also by the community, in this case, is this learning center. Learning center and family have to work hand in hand in providing supports needed for these children. Parents can’t just expect teachers to work and help their kids if they don’t help their kids at home. Suppose at school they are being taught to be discipline and positive but when they are at home their parents yell at them and just discourage them, so they will start to think less of themselves and start questioning. This is why community and family need to work side by side in terms of giving these children support needed for their development.

I have written about the refugee learning center in Cisarua and you can read it here.

Cheers x






if something moves you, if it excites you, if it makes you happy

go for it!

she is different



I am a woman not a girl you meet at a crossroad
I am more than a face to see
or a voice to calm your stormy night
you’ll long to hear my voice
cos it is a lullaby to you
and you’ll find me in your dream
but you think it’s a nightmare

I am more than a body to touch
you’ll burn your hand seconds you grab my waist
I am more than lips to kiss
you’ll be poisoned seconds your lips touch mine

I am more than one-night things
cos someone like me is not made
to last just one night
I am more than a hand to hold
cos the warmth of my hand won’t
warm your coldest heart
I grow thorns at the back of my hands
you will bleed trying to hold me

I am a woman of worth
I am made to be a home you miss
not a hostel you stay
I am made to be the water you need
not a whiskey you seek
I am made to be your sweetest regret and painful truth
cos tomorrow you will wake up
thinking of the chance you lost
to have someone
whose love as vast as the ocean
and you will long for me
every time you lay your eyes upon other’s
and there you’ll realize
that i am not like any other


//not one of your girls—ecp

Frida Kahlo Inspired Look






So a week ago I watched youtube and stumbled upon a video on how to recreate Frida Kahlo’s look. For those of you who don’t know, Frida Kahlo was a famous Mexican artist. She’s known for her self-portraits, passion, and eccentric look. She is celebrated in Mexico for her attention to Mexican and indigenous culture and by feminists for her depiction of the female experience and form ( What made her special was her ability to channel the emotion and pain and tell people about her experience into paintings. Life experience is her common theme.




I admire her strength and perseverance as she kept on doing the things she loved even though she was in a great pain. So this time, I want to recreate her look. It was far from perfect, though, as I noticed there are few of things missing but anyway, you can steal her look and make it your own.











at dawn it was
mom woke me up
saw him there
lying peacefully
stayed still
i held his hand
no tears at all
closed my eyes
hoping he’d just
pass out for a moment

sat oustide the ER
the doctor came up to me
he’s gone,she said
the world within me
crumbled down
no strength to walk
let alone to see his face

i didnt wanna go inside
too unbearable i thought
so i sat outside alone
ended up hurting myself
go ask the hospital walls
of how i got these bruises
i just wanted to wake up
from this nightmare

there they came
best friends at all times
sisters i never knew i needed

no flashback
no regrets
lies i kept telling to myself
to ease the pain
feel the regret
filling up my chest
painful it was
no words came out
of my mouth
did he know how much
i love him
did he know how much
i care

it’s all real
i saw him in there
in a coffin.
i saw him lying there
looked so peaceful
i saw him there
in a suit
i wish he would wear
on my wedding day.

still i hope
when i wake up
it all will be
a dream.

when a daughter lost her father.
It’s been a month already, Pa. I miss you like crazy

R i s e


you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out
i was not made with a lightness on my tongue
so i could be easy to swallow
i was made heavy half blade and half silk
difficult to forget and
not easy for the mind to follow

― Rupi Kaur..


On Losing Someone You Love The Most


June 25, 2017

I lost someone who I dearly love–my dad. As I write this post, I still am trying to recover from the loss. It has been such a rough time for me to accept the truth that my dad, whom I spent my 21 years with, has gone. It still feels like a dream, so surreal. Sometimes I find myself asking the same question over and over again…

Has he really gone?

Everything happens so fast that I could not seem to digest everything that is going on at the moment. Losing someone has always been so tough for me. I have lost my grandparents when I was a kid, and my aunt and Neni (grand ma’s sister). I had a hard time dealing with the loss. Losing the loved ones have always been my worst nightmare and a week ago, I had to experience that. Losing a parent is extremely, unbearably, utterly painful. I could not find words to describe what I’m feeling but the pain I had to endure was just too much. But thank God I have friends and family who are there to open their arms, hug me and console me, support me and give me words of encouragement. I have no idea what I would do without them.

Papa always taught me to not be selfish, to share what I have with my sister, to care and respect one another, to always be kind and generous. Papa once told me that he got offered a high position job but he refused, and when I asked why, his answer astonished me. He simply said that

I am happy with I have now. If I accepted that offer, I would have to spend less time with you all. I would have missed the chances to drop my daughters off at school, have dinner together, going out, and do things together as a family. Those are just little things but those are what I appreciate the most.
You can always earn money, everything will be sufficient for us, but only time cannot be bought. It is enough for me. I can still drop you off to school, get home early for dinner.”

Papa had long been sick. He had suffered for a long time and it was painful to see him in so much pain. But now he is in a much better place where he is in peace, and doesn’t have to feel the pain anymore.

Pa, it is hard to move on with my life without you around. We fought, argued and disagreed a lot but at the end of the day, you would always be a father who’s so forgiven. I am sorry for the wrong I have done to you, and hope you know that I have forgiven you too. I know for a fact that you don’t want me to live in regrets but I wish I were there to tell you how much I love you, Pa. I hope you knew that I love you and I care about you even though I rarely said it to you.

I will always remember when you drop me off at school and sat there with me till the bell rang because you didn’t want me to be alone
I will always remember the times when you jokingly told me to cut your ears cos I asked for too much and I ended up crying and you and mom laughed so hard
I will always remember that time when you first heard me sing and you told me that I sing pretty well
I will always remember that time when we had tickle war. You knew I was so ticklish, you could win so easily.


The pain is unbearable and I still don’t know how and when I’ll come to terms with the loss. Your absence is just painful. But I know for a fact this is just temporary separation for one day I will see you again. I know you are happy up there where you no longer worry about the future, and pain no longer kills. I know you are singing over me.

Until I see you again, Pa

I miss you so much

To the lot of you who are lucky enough to still have both parents with you. You hold one gift some of us no longer have, and I hope you realize that we are not promised tomorrow so don’t take this life for granted, don’t take your parents’ love and care for granted for one day it will be taken away from you. Say I love You when you really do, that’s what your parents want to hear. My dad didn’t get to hear that coming from me for the very last time, and I hope you don’t make the same mistake that I did. Live fully.

A Woman.



I was really inspired by Farah G who wrote a poem about woman empowerment that I decided to write a poem with similar taste or theme. I wrote this poem as a reminder to all women that we are equal and we deserve to be treated well.

Refugee Learning Center in Indonesia Sparks Hope

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“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”


I have been living in Cisarua, West Java for the last two months and volunteered at Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre as teaching assistant. I had such an amazing time there and the experience I had was tremendous and it truly is unforgettable.

Indonesian people are not really familiar with the refugee issue. There are even some misconceptions about refugees. One of my friends did not even know that there are International refugees living in Indonesia. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country due to fear of persecution, war, or violence.

Indonesia has not ratified the Convention relating to the Status of Refugee, therefore Indonesia is not responsible for providing the basic needs of Refugees living here. Refugees in Indonesia are not entitled to social security, access to education, and employment. That is why it makes it so hard for them living here. The protracted waiting time also makes it even harder. Because one usually needs to wait for 3 years or so to finally be resettled to the third country. There are an estimated 14.000 refugees living in Indonesia and some of them are children. In their growing age, this situation does affect their development. Can you imagine if you are stuck in limbo and have to wait for years without education? That is one of the problems that these refugee family face. They are worried about their children education.

“On 2014, a small group decided to start a school, The Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre. Unbelievably, through the school, the refugees found they were having the best days of their lives. Instead of sleeping all day, they got up early to go to class and to prepare lessons. Parents made lunches and delivered their kids to school, proud that they were able to provide an education for their children. They even started a school football tournament, and the female teachers played football for the first time in their lives.”

CRLC is the first school that is established and managed by refugees and now there are 100 refugee children enrolled there. This school has lifted the burden of the parents who were worried about their children education. This school is a symbol of hope, trust, and resilience. It gives these children a sense of hope. I first found out about this school on Facebook and I did some research about it and I was amazed by what the power of community can accomplish, and in this case, it has accomplished something great.

March 27

It was my first day in Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre and I could not be happier to start my day.  I was welcomed by heartwarming smile upon these children’s faces. They greeted me and asked my name, where I’m from and such things. One of them can even speak Bahasa and Sundanese very well, which is pretty impressive knowing that she’s only been here for a while and I can’t even speak Sundanese. She said that she’s learned that from her neighbors. They always start the day with morning exercise and every Monday there is a ‘Question of the Day’ where one of the Prefects asked a question and then she or he will pick some students to answer the question, and every Thursday, one of the students will stand in front of everyone to deliver a speech. Every morning, the female teachers would kiss me on the cheeks three times and hug me tightly.


On my first day, I was just there to observe. I was observing the interaction between the teacher and children, how they behave with their friends, and the activities they do at school.

Day by day, I have seen a great amount of respect these children have for their teachers and their eagerness to learn and the positive attitude they’ve shown. I have no words to describe this environment, it is just so positive. They appreciate each other, give words of encouragement to one another, behave well with everyone. They are just a bundle of joy. They are also very critical as in they are not afraid to question what they know. One time, the students asked me why is the sky blue? For most of you, it might seem a very simple question but it shows me how curious they are about the things around them. They begin to question small things. They are so eager to know and learn more. One of the students once came up to me and asked me what’s the meaning behind my name. Thank God, I have made a small research about my name in the past so I could easily answer her question haha! I told her that the name Erika is originally from Scandinavia and it means “Always Ruler”. It also is a name of a flower.


I talked with some of the students and I also observed and I can tell that they are very curious and eager to learn something. They told me that they love going to school and study and play with friends. In this school, they do not only learn about subtraction or how the plants grow, or how many continents are there but they learn so much more than any books could teach. They learn about how to respect people, how to shape their future, to value friendship, and to believe in the beauty of their dreams. They have such great sense of higher purpose. One of the students told me that she wants to become a policewoman because she wants to save her home country, Afghanistan. She wants to find all the terrorists so everyone will live in peace without fear.

Not only the children but the teachers here are also wonderful. I am truly inspired by the great work that the teachers put in giving the best education for the children. They truly are heroes with no capes. They work tirelessly and voluntarily. They do not receive any payment yet they give the best they have for the children.

I was fortunate enough to have visited the familie and I got to talk with them. They welcomed me in their houses, hugged me and made me feel like home. They taught me how to speak Farsi, they showed me something they have been doing these days, for example, one of the mothers I met, she has been pretty busy making clothes. They also cooked some Afghani foods for me. Let me tell you, Afghani dishes are delicious. If you like Indian dishes, I’m pretty sure you’ll like Afghani dish as well. These families also shared their stories to me; why they fled their home country, the problems they are facing right now. I am not gonna lie, I shed tears when they told me that. I just could not imagine myself to be in their position, to have one of my family members being killed, or to live my life in danger and terror. From these stories, I have learned about their bravery, struggle, and resilience.

Dear CRLC family, thank you so much for these past two months. I am eternally grateful for this experience and I really hope to see you really soon.


If you are inspired by the work they are doing, you can donate and support their work. Visit for more.