By Lisa Martin / Australian Associated Press | on 26 April 2017
Give refugee kids in limbo an education. A federal Labor MP has seen first-hand the need to stump up more assistance to ensure refugee kids in limbo throughout south-east Asia don't miss out on an education while their families wait upwards of a decade for resettlement.
Tim Watts, is on a self-funded fact-finding mission organised by Save the Children taking in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar to learn more about irregular migration.
Mr Watts witnessed the plight of refugee children living in Indonesia when he met youngsters at the Cisarua Refugee Learning Centre outside Jakarta last week.
It's a community school established and managed by refugees and asylum seekers and is using an Australian curriculum to teach pupils English, maths, science and other subjects.
The pupils are mostly from Afghanistan and the volunteer teachers are also refugees.
"We really need to invest more in ... services for children who are spending a significant time waiting for resettlement," Mr Watts told AAP from Bangkok.
The children were sitting at home with their parents and didn't have access to a friendship circle let alone an education.
"I've never seen school kids so engaged with their learning," he said.
Mr Watts said as the number of refugee resettlement places dwindled worldwide and the numbers fleeing persecution explodes, many youngsters may face waiting times of up to 10 years to rebuild their lives.
There are about 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the United Nations in Jakarta.
Australia put a ban on resettling anyone registered with the UN in Jakarta from July 1, 2014.
Mr Watts met Rohingya refugee families, who had fled Myanmar, at a detention centre in southern Thailand who had been there since 2012.
He encountered children who had been separated from their parents and siblings.
Mr Watts asked an eight-year-old girl what she wanted to do when she grew up and her response was she wanted to see her father.
"I know I'll be giving my own kids an extra hug when I get home," the MP said.
Mr Watts has also visited Rohingya displacement camps in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
Members of the 1.1 million Muslim minority group are seen by Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.