Asylum Seekers’ and Refugees’ Decision-Making in Transit in Indonesia: The Need for In-depth and Longitudinal Research

Antje Missbach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)419-445
Number of pages27
JournalBijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Asylum seekers
  • Australia
  • Clandestine journeys
  • Decision-making
  • Indonesia
  • Maritime borders
  • Mobility
  • Refugees
  • Repatriation
  • Return

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