Asylum seekers and refugees currently living in Indonesia tend to see Indonesia as a transit rather than a destination country, despite the fact that their stays are increasing in length. Based on contact with Muhamad (not his real name), a young refugee from Iran currently residing in Indonesia whose adjustment and development I observed over four years, I illustrate the changing priorities in his decision-making, the constant flux of circumstances and context, and the extreme complexity of primary and secondary factors that come into play in planning for the future. Combining a macro perspective with a case study, in which I present excerpts from several life-story interviews, helps to exemplify these generic migratory challenges and distil a range of relevant parameters that influence the decision-making of asylum seekers and refugees in transit. A (self-)critical reflection on ethical and methodological challenges underpins my analysis and argument, not least because politicians and policymakers are increasingly interested in influencing migratory decision-making processes to gain political advantage. Of particular interest in my analysis is the role of Australia’s deterrence policies in asylum seekers’ decision-making. Despite the ethical challenges associated with studying migratory decision-making—as public knowledge of migration strategies can also suppress aspirations of mobility—I argue for more in-depth and longitudinal research. At the very least, this is because more intensive, yet considerate studies of decision-making will help us to take seriously the migratory aspirations of people with limited choices.
This article analyses Indonesia’s foreign policy with respect to Myanmar and the forced displacement of more than 1 million Rohingya refugees from Rakhine State, Myanmar. Its main concern is to evaluate the effectiveness of Indonesia’s policies, including diplomatic efforts and humanitarian aid contributions, in regard to finding a solution to the ongoing disaster that affects both Rohingya remaining in Myanmar and those who have found temporary sanctuary in Bangladesh. For its diplomatic and humanitarian engagement, the Indonesian government has explored various avenues and utilised a range of instruments, including the purposeful engagement of non-state actors and faith-based humanitarian organisations. Our inquiry predominantly focuses on the time between the first Andaman Sea crisis (May 2015) and the second Andaman Sea crisis (mid-2020), not least because this is when Indonesia saw the arrival of Rohingya boats at its shores, which in turn fuelled local public interest in this matter. Our analysis pays special attention to domestic appeals from large Muslim organisations that sought to pressure the Indonesian government to become more proactive on behalf of the displaced and discriminated Rohingya. Yet, while a variety of Muslim organisations have at times demanded a more interventionist stance by the Indonesian government, their pressure has not been consistent or particularly successful. Therefore, it is likely the Indonesian government will continue to pursue its ‘quiet diplomacy’ efforts in order to balance the regional non-intervention paradigm and humanitarian imperatives caused by the forced displacement.
Discourses around illicit markets for irregular migration focus on criminality and global dimensions threatening border security and the sovereignty of the state. Organised crime has generally been understood to be committed by crime syndicates outside or parallel to the dominant order and formal economy. In Malaysia and Indonesia, however, the state (or parts thereof) is heavily implicated in such crime and essential for the success of unsanctioned trans-border movements. The participation of state officials could be analysed as a convergence of extralegal income generation and symbolic law enforcement. This article presents case studies from Malaysia and Indonesia that could only have taken place because security officials facilitated them. It challenges the orthodoxy of a state versus criminal network opposition and seeks to explain the circumstances under which legal prosecution occurs. The symbolic punishment of low-ranking officials reinforces networks of control, power hierarchies and cooperation of the state in illicit markets.