A refugee boat arriving at Australia in 2011. Photo: Youtube

Asylum seekers from countries in the Middle East are stuck in Indonesia in a state of limbo. More than 13,000 asylum seekers are trying to survive in various parts of the Indonesian archipelago, but they face financial hardship and uncertainty, The Guardian reported.

The medical evacuation law passed in Australia last week could represent a way out, but there may not be many refugees who have the money or are prepared to take that chance.

The medevac legislation will allow refugees detained on Nauru and Manus Island to be taken to Australia if they require medical treatment. Australian PM Scott Morrison, who suffered a major political embarrassment when the bill was passed, claimed that the law will draw a new wave of refugee boats into the country’s north.

However, many view those remarks as fear-mongering given that Morrison faces an election in a few months that pundits say his government is unlikely to win.

Meanwhile, initial feedback in Indonesia suggests there are not a lot of people prepared to try their luck on boats currently. Hussain Badavi, a 21-year-old Iranian refugee, said the situation is different to six to seven years ago. He said it took US$3,000 to get a boat to Australia between 2012 and 2013 — and the cost has most likely doubled since then.

‘Sick of false hopes’

Refugees were also sick of false hopes in the form of boats. The risk of traveling on the sea and the possibility of being turned back or being stuck in Papua New Guinea was not something the refugees would consider, he said.

In addition, most refugees in Indonesia don’t have much money. They are barred from seeking employment in the country and put in a  long resettlement process, which could take years to end.

The matter came to media attention last week when a father and son from Afghanistan set themselves on fire at a detention center in Sulawesi, as they had reportedly been stuck in the country for 17 years. The son, Sajjad, took part in a failed month-long hunger strike prior to setting himself on fire.

Erfan Dana, another refugee from Afghanistan, said they were tired of waiting and suffering an uncertain future. She listed at least six other refugees who had committed suicide in recent years.

However, there may still be hope for such refugees. Some believe that having stayed in Indonesia for a considerable number of years it may be a safer bet to try to obtain the right to live in Indonesia instead.

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