Building Resilience: The Emergence of Refugee-Led Education Initiatives in Indonesia to Address Service Gaps Faced in Protracted Transit

Thomas Mitchell Brown


Following recent changes in Australian immigration policy, and in the context of an increasing global refugee crisis, more than 14,000 asylum seekers and refugees now live in protracted transit in Indonesia, spending years awaiting resettlement through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to a third country. Despite the increasing length of time refugees are spending in Indonesia, they live in a state of limbo, prohibited from working and having limited access to education. Although refugees in such situations are commonly perceived to be passive agents resigned to helplessness and in need of outside assistance, refugee communities are challenging this notion by working together to independently address their collective needs. As such, the question emerges: How and to what extent do refugees self-organize to overcome barriers in access to basic services and rights while living in protracted transit in Indonesia? In Cisarua, a small town in West Java, the Hazara refugee community has responded by banding together and mobilizing their skills and experiences to independently provide sorely-needed education services for their own community. This article documents this example of refugee resilience and self-reliance, tracing the emergence of these refugee-led education initiatives, detailing their form, function, and benefits to the community, and analyzing the contextual factors that drove their emergence and proliferation in Cisarua.


Asylum Seekers; Education; Indonesia; Refugees; Resilience; Self-Organization

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