Invisible, Anonymous, Yet Politically Present. the Life-World of an Afghan Asylum Seeker in-Between Presence and Oblivion in the Asia-Pacific

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Claudia TAZREITER, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
While European nations agonise over the negotiations on the spontaneous flow of refugee populations (asylum seekers) from South to North and East to West, in the Asia-Pacific region, asylum seekers face significant barriers to finding protection. Chief in the creation of virtual ‘zones of disappearance’ of asylum seekers on boats is the Australian state. Australia has pursued a policy of off-shore detention of all asylum seekers arriving by boat through enforcement of a ‘stop the boats’ policy which includes no resettlement for those found to be refugees. Australia’s approach, singularly hard-line and punitive to vulnerable populations, signals the legitimation of similarly tough approaches by near neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia as transit countries. Mindful of this context, this paper tells the story of an Afghan asylum seeker experiencing a liminal life in Indonesia through Australian policy change that has effectively left asylum seekers ‘stuck’ without the opportunity to seek protection. Achmed (not his real name) is not permitted to work in Indonesia to support his family and is also not permitted to engage in ‘work-like’ activities such as providing educational classes for other asylum seekers. Nevertheless, Achmed and other asylum seekers found strategies to circumvent their insurmountable circumstance of an endless wait for resettlement. Achmed, along with some of his friends, founded a learning centre in Cisarua in Western Java, beginning on a small scale for children with ‘informal’ instruction by women asylum seekers supported by ‘sleeping leaders’ such as Achmed. The story of Achmed is one of resilience, of ‘survival community development’ in the face of indifference and invisibility from powerful regional states such as Australia. The example of the Cisarua Learning Centre is becoming a powerful symbol in regional refugee politics linking refugee populations and their advocates transnationally.