Old man in front of his home


After a first trip to Indonesia in December 2007, I returned in May 2015 as part of an assessment mission to look into the situation of internally displaced people in the country. I traveled to three different regions where communities were living in situations of prolonged, or protracted, displacement, having for various reasons failed to return and to properly recover from their displacement.


West Timor province

None of these communities had managed to achieve durable solutions, either in terms of access to livelihoods/employment or access to basic services often because they continued to suffer from some form of discrimination on the basis of their displacement, religion or ethnicity.


East Java province

Most of the hundreds of thousands displaced every year by natural disasters in the country manage to return to their homes after a few days or weeks. This has not been the case for people displaced from their homes in Sidoarjo (East Java) in 2006 by a mud flow – a mixture of mud, hot water and steam- that suddenly started erupting near a gas drilling site. Spreading quickly to nearby villages, the mud flow forced an estimated 15,000 people from their homes over the next years.

Nine years later some 5,000 have failed to sustainably integrate locally or resettle elsewhere. Without proper assistance or compensation from the government for their lost land and property, they have failed to acquire secure tenure. By May 2015, outstanding compensation payouts had not been made.


West Nusa Tenggara province

Since 2006, some 161 members of the Ahmadiyya community – a reformist Muslim sect regarded by many orthodox Muslims as heretics – have been displaced when they were evicted from their village in West Lombok, West Java, by a mob of villagers who attacked them and burnt their houses because of their beliefs. The displaced have since been living in an overcrowded shelter designated as “Wisma Transito” in Mataram City.


Most of the displaced were farmers but without access to land many have become market vendors, handicraft manufacturers or motorcycle taxi drivers. Most don’t earn enough to make a living. They have also not received any compensation for lost property in their home village.  Some of the displaced have tried to return home since 2006 but they have been chased out again. They are now unwilling to return without protection from the government and assistance to rebuild their lives.