Kalideres, West Jakarta.
A man cried uncontrollably on my shoulder about how much he missed his family. Not knowing what else to do, I promised Mohammed Hussein I'd tell the story of the forgotten Afghan refugees of Kalideres.
About 150 refugees live in cramped tents set up inside a decrepit building in Kalideres, West Jakarta. Some have been here for over 10 years waiting to be processed and sent to a third country by the UNHCR.
Many worked for NGO’s or other organizations the Taliban views unfavorably so returning home is not an option.
It is illegal for them to work in Indonesia as the country has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention and bars their permanent settlement. They typically cannot access or pay for health services and education. They are mostly confined to the camp with visits to the local Mosque.
Lack of motivation due to long-term inability to work and be productive is widespread.
For food, the residents are heavily reliant on the kindness of locals who live nearby.
The building is equipped with only one toilet and water supply, as well as electricity, are only available for a few hours per day.
The telephone seems a constant companion for many who spend hours scrolling pictures of their loved ones or exchanging calls and messages on WhatsApp. This only seems to make the longing worse.
They mostly receive drinking water and bread from kind locals, and occasionally cup noodles which they treasure as "a luxury food”.
Mohammed Hussein broke down uncontrollably shortly after I took his picture. He told me of his family in Pakistan, his two younger brothers and his mother. Since his father died he feels guilty for not being there to care for them and considers it a failure in responsibility.
Depression and mental illness are rampant with 13 suicides in 3 years. Financial problems, fear for the future, and anxiety are issues which contribute to them taking their lives.
The kids seem okay - I was greeted with a lot of smiles, yet they have no access education or structured play or activities. Time is taking its toll and demotivation is a big factor for the little ones too. They all deserve better.
May 28, 2022.