Weary People

Weary People

That Sinking Feeling: Asylum Seekers and the search for the Indonesian Solution Quarterly Essay 53

by Paul Toohey

Black Inc., $19.99 pb, 111 pp, 9781863956468

Stephen Atkinson

Stephen Atkinson is a freelance writer, researcher, editor, and occasional musician. He has a PhD in Indonesian media and politics and is...

By this contributor

Do the ends always justify the means? And if the boats really have stopped coming, should we see the death of Reza Berati and the suffering of thousands as the collateral damage of a successful policy?

Paul Toohey’s panoramic sweep of this human, ethical, and political terrain begins with a visit to Cisarua, a small resort town in the mountains south of Jakarta that has become a major centre for people seeking asylum in Australia. Some are awaiting the outcome of formal applications for refugee status. Others are preparing to risk a boat. It is July 2013, two months before the federal election. Toohey spends time getting to know people, listening to tales of their journeys and, later in the essay, talking to survivors plucked from the ocean after a boat is lost at sea. If for no other reason, Toohey’s essay should be read for this; as a powerful, necessary reminder that ‘asylum seekers’ have stories, loves, fears, names, and faces.

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