Title of Project

“Making Your Way: Strategies and Tactics of Independent Young Migrants from Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Somalia Facing the Politics of Age in Indonesia”.

Case Study Summary

This project focuses on the strategies and tactics of independent young migrants at the age group 12-24 who have been stranded in Indonesian territory while on route to Australia. These youth are mainly from Hazara ethnic group in Afghanistan and from Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar. They were either sent by their parents or other family members to pave the way to Australia or were separated from guardians during their journey. Many inter-governmental institutions and international non-governmental organizations categorize these young migrants as ‘unaccompanied and separated children’ (UASC)[1]. Academics have been referring to these groups in various term such as ‘independent child migrants’ (see Boyden 2013, Kwankye 2012) or ‘unaccompanied alien children’ (see Heidbrink 2014).

In this research, I use the term ‘independent young migrants’ to problematize the age categorization of children/minors and of young people, in the specific context of migration and refugee-ness. Hazara and Rohingya people have their own definitions for “minors” and “youth” in line with their custom and social background. In my research I adopt a wide spectrum of age to include a large number of participants. Importantly, I was the term “independent” to stress the agency of young migrants who are often portrayed as victims.

This study analyzes the tensions arising from the preference treatment of youth in the process of asylum seeking in Indonesia. The category of “minor” is internationally recognized and it obliges states to defer deportation. This research seeks to contribute to discussions that pertain to the tension between agency and structure in addressing young people on the move. The ‘minor’ identity or youth-ness is analyzed within the framework of political subject making which is contested in the context of Western definitions of ‘childhood’ versus local meanings of youth.

This project additionally contributes to discussions about transit countries in the context of global human mobility which is still dominated by studies on countries of origin and destination. The project offers perspectives from Southeast Asia, and particularly from Indonesia, on young migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who are still predominantly dealt with in the context of the Global North. Finally, the case of Indonesia offers a unique understanding of a transit country with a complex geographical condition.

Head of bogor immigration office (photo: henri ismail)
Independent young refugees are getting ready for an event with UNHCR Jakarta ( photo: henri ismail)
Sport facilities in kalideres immigration detention center Jakarta (photo: henri ismail)

[1] UASC is a categorization established by some organizations concern in children and migration such as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children UK (SCUK), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and World Vision International (WVI) to ensure that the rights of children who are travelling alone is protected.