A New Life, but at What Cost?

By Jianna Herrera ’20

    Between the years 2011 and 2014, the amount of asylum seekers and refugees around the world skyrocketed, reaching new levels that were never seen before. According to research provided by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, almost two million refugees and asylum seekers landed on the shores of Australia. Many were of Indonesian descent, searching for a new way of life. Between this time period, Australian policy required refugees and asylum seekers to return to their country. Instead, many people, including children, were jailed. It was only recently that Australian human rights officials recognized their wrongdoings in dealing with refugees.

    In a recent BBC article, Indonesia editor Rebecca Herschke described the mistreatment of more than 100 Indonesians who were wrongly jailed as adults when they were in fact children. Ali Jasmin was one of the many Indonesian refugees that claimed mistreatment by Australian immigration officials. According to several documents, including his birth certificate, Jasmin was only 13 when he was arrested for being a “people smuggler’’ and forced into an adult jail. Although, these documents were not presented during his arrest, Jasmin remained in jail for seven years until his release in 2012. “I kept arguing that I was a child, but I was sentenced to three years because they said I was an adult,” Jasmin told the BBC.

    Indonesia’s consular-general in Perth during that time, Dede Syamsuri, claimed that Indonesia’s ability to help Jasmin and other boys was limited.”[This was] simply because we had nothing in our hand – we had no proof of how old the boys were,” he said to the BBC. This sparked anger among refugees, including Jasmin. “They should have been our biggest defenders but they just weren’t. The Indonesian consular [officials] asked us if we were underage and we told them clearly that we were, but nothing changed.” he said in the BBC article.

    The Australian Human Rights Commission “ “found numerous breaches of the boys’ rights, and flawed handling of their cases, according to BBC News. They stated that “federal police and the CDPP [Australia’s Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions] placed reliance on wrist X-ray analysis as evidence that a person was over the age of 18 years – despite significant material being available to support the conclusion that they should not do so.”

    To this day, many refugees and asylum seekers are determined to fight for compensation from Australian officials for their injustice. “What I am fighting for now is compensation for the time I spent in jail,” Jasmin told the BBC. “After that I will give money to my parents. I want to make my family happy.”

Graphic by Marbella Trujillo ’19

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