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Refugee Council of Australia
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Home > Reports > After the boats have stopped: Refugees stranded in Indonesia and Australia’s containment policies

After the boats have stopped: Refugees stranded in Indonesia and Australia’s containment policies

(In)voluntary returns

Australia funds the Assisted Voluntary Returns program, administered again through IOM. Under this program, airfares and a $2000 relocation allowance are provided to any refugee or person seeking asylum willing to return home. While this program is meant to be voluntary, there are concerns about the voluntariness of such a decision. If refugees have no option to stay in Indonesia and cannot find protection elsewhere, they may feel pressured to return.

The guidelines set by UNHCR state that to freely choose to return to a country of origin, refugees must also have a legal basis to stay in their current host country. Frequently, refugees have no other options except remaining in harsh conditions in Indonesia, in a precarious legal situation, or in detention. As such, returns back to their country of origin may not be voluntary.

From 2013 to 2017, IOM returned 4,886 people from Indonesia to countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. Those returning to these countries often face violence, conflict and persecution, raising significant concerns about the safety of people returned.

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