“After 4 very long days of sea sickness, a storm hit our boat. We couldn’t do much but try to hold on. It was horrible and I am sure that nobody would choose that danger for adventure.”
My name is Keyhan. I am a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan now living in Australia.
Before I came to Australia I was in Indonesia for about three years and spent my time in several places: places that I will never forget. I came from a country that has a long history of conflict and millions of its citizens are refugees around the world. The presence of Hazara refugees can be found in many developed countries and some of us came to Indonesia to find a way to Australia.
Let me tell you about my journey; it is a story about finding hope.
First I arrived in Sumatra Island, a place where many asylum seekers pass through. Getting to Sumatra was one of the most difficult and dangerous times in my life. Sailing in a small fishing boat with twelve other people for several days and nights; without enough food and water, or a toilet, was like living in hell! I remember when I got off that fishing boat I couldn’t control myself and fell down to the ground.
From Sumatra, I was brought to Jakarta, then Surabaya. I was there for 10 days. I then started my journey through the Indian Ocean towards Australia. After 4 very long days of seasickness, a storm hit our boat. We couldn’t do much but try to hold on. It was horrible and I am sure that nobody would choose that danger for adventure. We had no other option. Seeking safety and trying to find a safe place to live had put us in that situation.
The next morning we found ourselves surrounded by Indonesian authorities and they took us into custody and sent us back to Surabaya. I was detained in Surabaya Detention Center for about a year. It was hard to live with so many uncomfortable restrictions; not being able to wear shoes; having no contact with the outside world; or even being able to shave myself. Then I was released and transferred to Yogyakarta.
My experience as a refugee in Yogyakarta was quite different from my experience in other parts of Indonesia. My negative past experiences had led me to believe that there were no good people and they only acted nicely because they expected something in return. But Yogyakarta and its people changed my mind and taught me to think positively.
All of my friends in JRS and IOM had a special role in building the foundation of my new life. Without their help I am sure that I would not have made it.
In February 2013 I received bad news from home – my cousin was killed in a bomb blast in Quetta Pakistan and two others in my family had been injured. Furthermore, I still hadn’t had a response from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Australian Embassy regarding my application for resettlement. I was really desperate: sometimes bad ideas came into my mind. But all the help and accompaniment from JRS staff and some friends I had met there helped me get through this difficult time.
The programs that JRS offers to refugees are very helpful and it is really great that such organisation exists in Yogyakarta. Since formal education is not accessible for refugees, it is wonderful that JRS gave us the opportunity to at least learn English. I also think that it could be good idea if Indonesian language was taught to refugees as well as courses on Indonesian culture and history.
I also had the opportunity to go on some excursions. We visited Kaliurang; the Palace Museum; and also Gunung Merapi Museum. From those visits I learnt a lot about Indonesian culture, history, and their amazing nature. The Borobudur and Prambanan temples and Kaliurang were my favourite places.
After many months in Yogyakarta my application was finally approved and I departed to Australia. I have since completed a diploma in Screen and Media at Sydney TAFE College, which then allowed me to apply for a university degree. Later on, with assistance from the Australian Department of Human Services, I received a full scholarship from University of Technology Sydney. I am now really enjoying studying Art and Communication at the faculty of Media Art and Production.
I was born in a non-educated family and I am the first generation from my family to have the chance to be taught in an academic environment: I am so grateful for this. I am also grateful to those who have helped me. People around the world have very different views about refugees and unfortunately many are either against or don’t care at all about refugees. But refugees and asylum seekers are also human. I really hope that more people will care about humanity, be kinder, and respond positively to this refugee crisis and treat us as fellow human beings.