Surabaya, 1 April 2016- Life became normal again for a few hours for 10 asylum seekers and refugees detained in Immigration Detention Center (IDC) Surabaya. Spending a day at the Safari Park, sitting in nature, observing animals, to be with many people and eat in a restaurant is a luxury for people waiting to receive international protection from persecution in Afghanistan and Somalia.

Excursions to the world behind fences are events longed for after months or years of confinement. Being detained in immigration detention, they feel like being in a prison, restrained. As soon as they get the chance to see the outside world, they were absolutely delighted, even though some limitations are still applied. The detainees have to wear uniform shirts provided by JRS.

For Rezai, a 26 years old asylum seeker from Afghanistan, this trip was his first encounter with a real elephant. He was so excited, he begged to join the next trip to Safari Park again, “If there is another trip to Safari Park, I can come again right? When are you going to organise the next trip?”

Faces lighten up when our bus entered Safari Park and one could start observing the animals. When entering the American-European animal zone, phones were taken out to take pictures of the llama, bison, deer, and bear, and other animals in the open enclosure.

For a 17 year old like Ismat, being able to see so many different species of wild animals is a very exciting experience. Excited he took many pictures of birds, elephants, lion cubs, white tigers and snakes. This was Ismat’s first visit to a zoo in his life. A moment he would cherish in the months or maybe years to come. Ismat and other 9 refugee brothers are the last group to visit Safari Park this year. These 10 asylum seekers were the latest to arrive in Surabaya IDC after being transferred from Pekanbaru Immigration Office in August.

The trip offered not only the chance to see animals but also to interact with other visitors, mostly Indonesians. Language was not much a barrier as body language and some basic words offered means to communicate. Sometimes they met students or young families with children.

Ali (17) and Ghulam said they were happy to interact with some children they met there. “This reminds me of my family in Afghanistan,” Ali said. His two younger siblings were only 6 and 4 years old when he left his country 2 years ago. Ghulam added, “When I see children I remember my nephew, he was only 2 years old when I left Ghazni.”

Taty Sufiani, Head of Surabaya IDC is in full support of these excursions for detained asylum seekers and refugees. She believes it will help to ease their boredom and stress living in confinement. “Indeed there are activities provided for them by JRS and IOM, such as futsal, volleyball, and English classes. But recreational activities to see nature will give them the opportunity to recharge their feelings and offers a diversion,” she explained.

By Daryadi Achmadi

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