Hospitality or Human Rights? Indonesia Welcomes the Rohingya



Antje Missbach, 2017-18 Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellow on Contemporary Southeast Asia

Date and Time

October 23, 2017 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM



Open to the public.

RSVP required by 5PM October 22.


Philippines Conference Room
Encina Hall, Third Floor, Central, C330
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Indonesia has not signed the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not offer legal pathways for the permanent integration of refugees into its society. Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar across the Andaman Sea to Aceh in 2015 did, nevertheless, receive “hospitality” in the form of a humanitarian welcome by local non-state actors. Indonesian authorities have argued that this “Aceh model” deserves emulation by other countries experiencing emergency in-migrations. Since the crisis, academics and policymakers in Indonesia and elsewhere have debated the merits of the model compared with state-funded refugee-protection schemes.

Dr. Missbach will examine the reactions of the Indonesian hosts towards the Rohingya through the conceptual lens of “hospitality.” The diverging motivations of the different stakeholders and groups who provided hospitality, she will argue, were not always as altruistic as claimed. By documenting the tensions inherent in hospitality practices, Dr. Missbach will reveal a subtle instrumentalization of hospitality by non-state actors for non-refugee related purposes, and thus question the effectiveness of such ad hoc approaches when it comes to ensuring basic refugee rights. Privately offered hospitality alone, traditional or religious, cannot resolve migration crises in ways that respect those rights. Accordingly, in Indonesia and Southeast Asia generally, the state should take more responsibility for helping refugees seeking safety.

Antje Missbach is a senior lecturer and research fellow at the School of Social Sciences in Monash University (Melbourne). Among her books are Troubled Transit: Asylum Seekers Stuck in Indonesia (2015) and Politics and Conflict in Indonesia: The Role of the Acehnese Diaspora (2011). Her many other writings include a prize-winning piece on people-smuggling, fishermen, and poverty on Rote island in eastern Indonesia (“Perilous Waters”) that appeared in the Dec. 2016 Pacific Affairs. In addition to migration, her research interests include irregular migration, anti-trafficking efforts, diaspora politics, and long-distance nationalism. She obtained her PhD from the Australian National University in 2010.