Refugee and Mental Health: Living in uncertainty

The Oxford Dictionary defines refugees as a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.

The world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record, with a total of 70.8 million people around the world that are forced from home. This means we live in a world where nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every 2 seconds either as a result of conflict or persecution, as reported by the UN. It is reported in 2018 by UNHCR that there is a total of 13,863 seeking refuge in Indonesia. These refugees come from 49 different countries which include Afghanistan, Somalia and Myanmar.

Indonesia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and therefore refugees in Indonesia are mostly in transit, waiting to be resettled to a third country. This also means that our country does not take responsibility of the livelihood of asylum seekers or refugees. Which leads to refugees not permitted by law to work in any capacity, earn money independently or attend Indonesian schools. On top of this, multiple nations such as the USA and Australia are cutting down their funding and refugees quota, which led to UNHCR announcing in 2017 that resettlement in a third country had become limited for refugees in Indonesia. This means that there is limited to no opportunity for Indonesian refugees to be resettled.  This news further impacts their already vulnerable mental health.

Having to travel to a foreign country, not speaking the language here and often not welcomed, many refugees face many struggles. Usually forced into inhumane conditions, leading to many preferring to live on the streets, refugees in Indonesia live with uncertainty and hopelessness, leading to many developing depression and anxiety.

Majid Hussaini is a 23 years old refugee from Afghanistan currently in Indonesia. He had to leave his country after the civil war due to the increasing racism in Afghanistan, which endangered the lives of specific minority groups, including Majid’s.

“It has been 7 years that we fight with many challenges every single day. When we wake up we have nothing to do and our room has felt like a prison to us.
1. We are not allowed to work
2. We don’t have access to education and health support.
3. We have been forgotten and the process is not fair for single refugees.
4. We are totally tired of this situation with many of my fellow refugees deciding to die because of suicide.”

Majid mentions that living for 7 years in limbo without access to work and education, without being able to meet his family, facing financial challenges; it causes one to lose hope slowly. He mentions that he is depressed and experiencing panic attacks often but unfortunately,  he has no access to mental health care help.

Currently there are ongoing peaceful protests in front of many UN offices around Indonesia, wanting governments and the UN to take action. He and many other refugees hope that the peaceful protest may lead to a more fair process and resettlement to a third country, specifically single refugees.