Seeking ayslum in Australia but stuck in Indonesia

Seeking ayslum in Australia but stuck in Indonesia

JAKARTA- With a view overlooking Mount Salak and a cool breeze blowing, Madam Parveen kneads dough on the floor of the small house in Cisarua district, Bogor.

Sitting next to the 48-year-old, husband Ahmad E-Chashtari, 53, and daughter Nagin, 18, help prepare the dough mix. Her son Saman, 24, slaps a flattened dough paste on a heated stove.

Two units away from this Iranian family, 23-year-old Abbas Ali is about to start his English class. Commanding the attention of the eager grown men, some twice his age, the Pakistani calls out loudly: "Please repeat after me. This is A, this is B."

The idyllic setting and routine activities belie the plight of this expanding community of Australia-bound asylum seekers in limbo in Indonesia as they wait to be granted refugee status. The impatient ones attempt a perilous sea journey to Christmas Island. Some drown, others turn back.

Their future has become even more uncertain and dangerous now that Australia has vowed to turn back asylum-seeker boats to Indonesian waters, sparking a diplomatic row over sovereignty between the two countries exacerbated by recent spats over espionage.

Both communities faced persecution at home and they have bonded as they find acceptance with each other. It is also in this hilly district 75km south of Jakarta, that they have cultivated a micro-economy as they bide their time in an unfamiliar land.

Thousands of asylum seekers are clustered in this district known as "kampung Arab" with its Middle-Eastern food and signs in Arabic, catering to Middle-Eastern tourists flocking there for years for the cool weather and scenery. The location is convenient as it is a short two-hour trip to Jakarta's branch of the UN refugee agency to monitor their refugee application status and cheaper than trying to stay in the capital.

"Let the countries talk politics," says Mr Ahmad in Persian. "We are facing daily challenges - how do we get money to eat? We want to work, but that is forbidden."

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