In Endless Transit: Contributions and Challenges for Refugee-led Initiatives In Indonesia
Refugee-led initiatives (RLIs) have emerged as a critical force for refugee protection and solutions worldwide. Yet, despite their growing prominence, these initiatives remain poorly understood by policymakers, humani- tarian actors, and donors, resulting in insufficient recognition and funding. In the Asia-Pacific region, this knowledge gap is especially pronounced, with RLIs struggling to gain the support they need to fulfill their potential.
Forming part of a larger research project that looks at RLIs across the region, this report explores the ways in which RLIs in Indonesia support and engage with their communities and other stakeholders, as well as the barriers that they face when conducting their work. Drawing on online surveys and key informant interviews with a range of individuals with personal experience of RLIs in Indonesia, the report finds that:
- Indonesia is home to a vibrant community of RLIs that provide many kinds of support to their communi- ties, ranging from education and health services to legal support and livelihood opportunities.
The emergence of these RLIs can be traced to changes of policy in Australia in 2014 that fundamentally altered the character of the refugee experience in Indonesia, with temporary stay quickly becoming protracted. This gave rise to new needs—such as for education for children who were remaining in Indo- nesia for longer than originally anticipated—that were not being met by the government or other organi- sations, and RLIs were established to fill the void.
RLIs in Indonesia are well structured and their members display a strong sense of common purpose and mission. They are also responsive to the needs of their communities and base their decisions on lived experience and sustained engagement with their communities.
RLIs in Indonesia embrace national and gender diversity. Every RLI examined caters to multiple nationali- ties and, although the refugee population in Indonesia is predominantly male, women are well represent- ed in RLI leadership in the country.
RLIs face a number of common challenges in Indonesia, most notably relating to resourcing, government restrictions, organisational challenges, and increasing desperation on the part of refugees in Indonesia. Legal registration is a particular challenge, and prevents RLIs from opening bank accounts and forming operational partnerships with a range of other organisations.
The Report Recommends that:
1. Donors consider ways to provide enhanced support to RLIs in Indonesia through funding, capacity-building support and other avenues, including by investigating ways to support RLIs to reap the benefits of registration.
2. UNHCR take steps to address concerns that the existence of RLIs in Indonesia—and participation in their activities—are negatively impacting refugees' prospects of being resettled.
3. Australia reconsider its policy position not to resettle anyone who registered with UNHCR in Indonesia on or after 1 July 2014, in view of the present policy's detrimental impact.
4. The Government of Indonesia consider pledges that it could make at the second Global Refugee Forum in December 2023 to enhance refugee rights and wellbeing in Indonesia.