TROUBLED TRANSIT: Asylum Seekers Stuck in Indonesia.

AuthorButcher, Andrew
PositionBook review

TROUBLED TRANSIT: Asylum Seekers Stuck in Indonesia

Author: Antje Missbach

Published by: Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2015, 289pp, US$29.90.

Behind every statistic there is a person. Behind every policy there are people impacted. Behind the masses of refugees that washed ashore in the Mediterranean or came in boats across the Pacific are individuals with stories, families, fears and aspirations. Migration, whether it is voluntary or not, permanent or not, is always about a person going from one place to another. At the heart of this is a human being with a story.

In Troubled Transit: Asylum Seekers Stuck in Indonesia, Antje Missbach, movingly and convincingly, tells the story of the people at the heart of recent history: those who seek to flee famine and war; get caught up in the nets of policies and exploitation alike; and travel illegally (and dangerously) to Indonesia--all with the hope of reaching the promise of Australia. Some make it; many do not. Some are sent back; some try again and again. By identifying the names, faces and stories of some of these asylum-seekers, Missbach brings in sharp relief the human cost of hope. Most readers of this book will not know the sea-sickness, the fear, the vulnerability, the victimisation, the opportunism, the resilience and the drama on the high seas of the asylum-seekers we read about here. But more readers will know about setting policies, charting public opinion, giving advice to ministers, inter-agency competition, diplomacy by megaphone and newspaper article, diplomatic detente and demarche--the high drama of the affairs of the state. All that is in this book too.

The book moves between these stories, with statistics and policies set out as well, sometimes in more detail than is necessary. The author seeks some theoretical scaffolding but does not quite succeed; the book is strongest in its empiricism, though there is an over reliance on and lack of critical analysis of only a handful of...

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