Over the last three years, Pasar Minggu Baru, a South Jakarta neighborhood, has come to house an enclave of East African refugees and asylum-seekers, some of whom arrived through unscrupulous smugglers.

By Krithika Varagur (VOA) |

Ranna, 24, an Oromo Ethiopian woman, is not only a third-generation refugee, but also a two-time refugee. Indonesia, which is home now, is the second place to which she has been displaced in her young life.

She was born in Saudi Arabia because her mother, the daughter of a prominent dissident, fled Ethiopia before her birth. But that country did not recognize asylum-seekers and she was officially stateless. After a brief interlude in Ethiopia, where she was deported to at age 16 and where she earned a bachelor’s degree, she was again forced to flee during a government crackdown on Oromo activists in 2015.

After a harrowing interlude in Djibouti, where she says Oromo asylum-seekers were being rounded up and deported because of an agreement with the Ethiopian government, Ranna’s smuggler booked her, her mother and her brother on a flight to Indonesia. It was a country where they knew no one and did not speak the language.

They were granted refugee status within a year and able to make a home in Pasar Minggu Baru, a South Jakarta neighborhood that abuts a commuter train line and station. Over the last three years, the neighborhood has come to house an enclave of East African refugees and asylum-seekers, some of whom arrived, like Ranna, through unscrupulous smugglers. Others got stuck in transit when Australia blocked maritime refugee arrivals in 2014.

East African asylum seekers face years-long wait times to even be granted refugee status in Indonesia, according to Trish Cameron, an independent refugee lawyer based in Jakarta. And if that happens, they face even longer wait times for resettlement out of Indonesia — if they are resettled at all, which is not a given, especially as developed countries have closed their doors in recent years.

“There’s not really anywhere to go right now,” said Ranna.

Pasar Minggu Baru community of East African refugees

There are about 200 Oromo refugees in Jakarta, according to Cameron, and “hundreds” of East African refugees in Pasar Minggu Baru. Ranna said she finds it quite safe.

“They don’t make you feel like a stranger, maybe because refugees have been hosted here for a long time,” said Ranna. There also is a small Arab market nearby, a happy coincidence because her family speaks Arabic from their time in Saudi Arabia.

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