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Mental Health Wellbeing during COVID-19

This post was made in collaboration with the Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program – UNSW Sydney (


The outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Coping with stress will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  How you respond to the outbreak can depend on your background, the things that make you different from other people, and the community you live in.

People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

  • Older people and people with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for COVID-19
  • Children and teens
  • People who are helping with the response to COVID-19, like doctors and other health care providers, or first responders
  • People who have mental health conditions including anxiety, depression or problems with substance use
  • People who have previously lived through situations of adversity

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

To combat the negativity, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released guidelines that aim to minimize the harmful effects the pandemic is having on mental health and wellbeing.

  1. COVID-19 has and is likely to affect people from many countries, in many geographical locations. Do not attach it to any ethnicity or nationality. Be empathetic to all those who are affected, in and from any country. People who are affected by Covid-19 have not done anything wrong, and they deserve our support, compassion, and kindness.
  2. Do not refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims” “COVID-19 families” or the “diseased”. They are “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID19”, “People who are recovering from COVID-19” and after recovering from COVID-19 their life will go on with their jobs, families and loved ones. It is important to separate a person from having an identity defined by COVID-19, to reduce stigma.
  3. Minimize watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice. The sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried. Get the facts; not the rumors and misinformation. Gather information at regular intervals, from WHO website and local health authorities’ platforms, in order to help you distinguish facts from rumors. Facts can help to minimize fears.
  4. Protect yourself and be supportive of others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper. For example, check-in by phone on neighbors or people in your community who may need some extra assistance. Working together as one community can help to create solidarity in addressing COVID-19 together.
  5. Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories and positive images of local people who have experienced COVID-19. For example, stories of people who have recovered or who have supported a loved one and are willing to share their experience.
  6. Honor caretakers and healthcare workers supporting people affected with COVID-19 in your community. Acknowledge the role they play to save lives and keep your loved ones safe.

In addition to that, and if you need to be quarantined or need to self-isolate:

  • Maintain a normal daily routine as much as possible to help keep your spirits up. Maintain a healthy diet, sleep regime, and make time for some exercise.
  • Be prepared (e.g., develop a personal/family preparedness plan in case you are quarantined or need to self-isolate).
  • Avoid or reduce the use of alcohol and tobacco.
  • Stay connected with friends and family through social media and over the phone.
  • Use your time purposefully, for example, working from home or getting homework sent to you.
  • Take advantage of the time to do things that you’ve been wanting to do like reading a book or learning a new skill

Let children understand what is happening in their surroundings

Including your children in your family’s health care plan will lead to better understanding, counter the fear of the unknown, and help children and adolescents feel a sense of control.

  • Ask children what they have heard about coronavirus.
  • Provide age-appropriate, accurate information and clarify any misinformation or misunderstanding they may have.
  • Encourage children to share their concerns, and let them know that parents and teachers are available to discuss thoughts and feelings.
  • The way parents behave can have a significant effect on children. Keep conversations calm and focus on the facts. Emphasize efforts that are being taken to contain infectious diseases.
  • Model health-promoting behaviors for your children. For example, teach them to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds – as long as it takes to sing the happy birthday song twice.
  • Educate the entire family about good health habits. Talk about what each family member can do to help others outside of the immediate family.
  • Include children in family discussions and plans, in an age-appropriate way.
  • Address any misconceptions children may have that could result in stigmatizing people or groups of people in the community.

COVID-19 Information for Refugees in Indonesia

(This article will be updated continuously, last updated 30/03)

The situation with Coronavirus, known also as SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19, in Indonesia is escalating very quickly.

The data on SUAKA website will be updated every 6 hours. For real-time data you can visit:

Jakarta (cases):



The government already issue nationwide awareness for prevention and mitigation. WHO also already declared this case as a pandemic earlier today. Calling COVID-19 a pandemic does not mean that it has become more deadly, it is an acknowledgment of its global spread.

SUAKA asks the refugee community not to be panic. The virus transmission is preventable and can be managed through practicing personal hygiene, such as hand-washing, avoid face-touching, and follow good cough and sneeze etiquette. If you develop symptoms, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, you should go to the doctor.

Don’t believe hoaxes on the internet, always double-check news or chain text messages shared on social media or messaging application (whatsapp/line/viber etc) THROUGH a reliable news source.

The best place to get reliable information is the WHO Website, Here you can find comprehensive advice, including more on how to minimize the risk of spreading or catching COVID-19. All sources of information available on SUAKA website, were checked and verified before published.

The site is currently being updated on a daily basis, so check in regularly.

It is also advisable to check the official Website of your local and regional municipality, which may have specific health information, as well as news concerning your community, such as travel guides, and outbreak hotspots.

Avoid big meetings and food-sharing. If you can work from home, do so. All nonessential large social gatherings should be reconsidered and, if possible, postponed. The easiest way how to identified ‘large social gathering’ if it is involving more than 10 people, it is LARGE.

SUAKA is preparing an illustrated information on the coronavirus in for Farsi speaker. The illustration was kindly provided and translated from Wei Man Kow original post on Coronavirus (check her other works on or on Instagram @weimankow).

Other information is also available for other languages. SUAKA will try to compile this information.



Pathways to Refugee Wellbeing, Research on Asylum Seeker and Refugee in Indonesia

Who is conducting this study?

  • The Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program, from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, is working with HOST International, SUAKA and Universitas Gadjah Mada to conduct this study.

Why is the study important?

  • We want to learn about the experiences of refugees, and what kinds of things affect their wellbeing.
  • This will help us understand how refugees cope in their everyday life.
  • This knowledge will help to provide better support for refugees in a similar situation around the world.

Who can take part in this study?

  • Refugee and asylum-seeker adults (18 years +), who are eligible to participate.
  • As the surveys are on-line, you can take part in this study no matter where you live, as long as you have access to the internet. The surveys are in English, Arabic, Farsi, Dari, and Somali.
  • To take part in this study, you will need an email address. If you do not have an email address, you can get one here: (Gmail registration) One person can only use one email address.

What does the study involve?

  • First, we will ask you to register your interest in participating in this study, on our website.
  • Second, we will check if you are eligible to participate.
  • If you are eligible, and you agree to participate in the study, we will invite you to complete an online survey 4 times over 18 months.
  • The questions are about yourself, your experiences, your thoughts and feelings, and about the relationships you have with other people.
  • Each survey takes about one hour to complete.
  • To thank you for sharing your experiences, we will reimburse eligible participants for your time with an Indomaret voucher worth IDR 100,000 after you complete each survey.

What will happen to the information you collect from me?

  • All information provided by participants is highly confidential and is only accessed by the
    research team.
  • Only the UNSW research team and the HOST International Research Coordinator will have access to your personal information (e.g. contact details), so we can contact you for future time points.
  • Your information will not be shared with any service providers, UNHCR, or any
  • These details will be stored separately from your survey responses.
  • Participating in this study will not affect the UNHCR process and the resettlement process.
  • You can choose to receive regular updates about the study in your own language.

Follow this link to register:


Training Paralegal Komunitas Pengungsi

(English version below)

Training Paralegal Komunitas untuk Pengungsi ini diselenggarakan pada tanggal 27-29 Juli 2019. Training ini diikuti oleh 22 peserta dengan latar belakang kewarganegaraan yang beragam yang merupakan pengungsi yang telah mengikuti proses seleksi dan berasal dari Jakarta dan Bogor.

Indonesia tidak dapat mengesampingkan komitmen konstitusionalnya serta kewajiban internasionalnya untuk menegakkan hak asasi manusia untuk semua orang, meski belum menjadi pihak dalam Konvensi Pengungsi 1951.

Peraturan Presiden No.125 tahun 2016, sangat disadari, tidak cukup untuk melindungi hak-hak pengungsi yang tinggal di Indonesia. Akan tetapi, perlu diingat, Indonesia telah mengadopsi ke dalam kerangka hukum nasionalnya, pelbagai prinsip hak asasi manusia yang sudah diakui secara universal. Pelanggaran atas hak -hak tersebut sama dengan mendiskriminasi dan melanggar hak asasi manusia para pengungsi.

Pada kenyataannya, SUAKA menemukan bahwa para pengungsi rentan terhadap pelanggaran hak asasi mereka. Sementara itu, mereka tidak memiliki akses terhadap bantuan hukum yang dapat diandalkan. SUAKA melihat pemberdayaan hukum sebagai strategi terbaik untuk mengatasi tantangan ini.

Pemberdayaan dilakukan untuk membangun kapasitas pengungsi dalam memahami hak mereka, mengetahui kerangka hukum Indonesia yang ada, dan memiliki keterampilan advokasi hukum, dengan harapan bahwa pengungsi akan mampu mengadvokasi diri mereka sendiri atau membantu pengungsi lain menghadapi potensi pelanggaran hak-hak pengungsi.

Sebagai sebuah perkumpulan yang menyediakan bantuan hukum sebagai salah satu layanannya, SUAKA berharap pelatihan dan dokumen panduan yang kami buat dapat menjadi referensi bagi praktisi bantuan hukum yang melakukan inisiatif pemberdayaan hukum dan mengembangkan program paralegal komunitas pengungsi.

Kami menyampaikan apresiasi yang setinggi-tingginya untuk para anggota dan relawan SUAKA yang telah menyusun buku panduan paralegal komunitas pengungsi dan menyelenggarakan training ini.


Community-Based Paralegal Training was conducted on 27-29 July 2019. The training was attended by 22 participants with a diverse country of origin backgrounds, who were refugees that follow the selection process and resides in Jakarta and Bogor.

Despite that Indonesia is not a signatory country to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Indonesia shall not override its constitutional commitment as well as its international obligation to uphold human rights for everyone.

It is well aware that the Presidential Regulation No.125 of 2016 is not sufficient to protect the rights of the refugee who stay in Indonesia, however, most of universally recognized human rights have been adopted into Indonesia legal framework, which violation against refugee rights can be deemed as discriminatory and violations to those universally recognized human rights.

In reality, SUAKA found that refugees are prone to violations of their human rights. Meanwhile, they are lack access to any credible legal counsel. To overcome this challenge, SUAKA sees legal empowerment as the best strategy that builds refugee capacity in understanding their human rights, knowing the existing Indonesia legal framework, and the skill of legal advocacy, with the hope that refugee will be able to advocate themselves or assisting other refugees against any potential violations of refugee rights.

Along with the establishment of SUAKA as an association who provide legal aid as one of our services, we are pleased to present this training manual as a reference for legal aid practitioner who conducts legal empowerment initiative and develops a refugee community paralegal program.

High appreciation for the contribution of SUAKA’s members and volunteers for drafting this training manual and hopefully can be useful for the refugee community in upholding their human rights.

Laporan Riset Sandya Institute: Menjelaskan Potensi Ekonomi Komunitas Pengungsi Indonesia

Sandya Institute meluncurkan laporan penelitian mereka yang bertajuk “Menjelaskan Potensi Ekonomi Komunitas Pengungsi Indonesia: Survei mengenai Karakteristik Ketenagakerjaan dan Penghidupan.”

Peluncuran laporan ini dibahas dalam acara diskusi publik yang diselenggarakan pada hari Kamis, 12 Desember 2019. Hadir dalam diskusi ini sebagai pembicara, Matthew Locastro (Sandya), Gading Gumilang (JRS Indonesia), Ann Maymann (UNHCR Representative in Indonesia), salah satu perwakilan komunitas pengungsi di Indonesia, dan Rizka Rachmah (SUAKA) bertindak sebagai moderator.

SUAKA mengapresiasi Sandya Institute dengan laporan penelitian ini, yang akan semakin menguatkan advokasi berbasis data (evidence-based advocacy) dalam bidang pemberdayaan pengungsi selama mereka tinggal di wilayah Indonesia.

Abstract: Terhitung dari bulan September 2019, Indonesia telah menjadi rumah sementara bagi
13,657 pengungsi luar negeri. Kebanyakan dari mereka berasal dari Afghanistan dan Somalia dan
meninggalkan negara asalnya untuk mencari rasa aman dan lari dari keadaan mengancam dengan
maksud mencari suaka di tempat lain. Populasi dari pengungsi yang sekarang tinggal di Indonesia
merupakan salah satu kelompok pengungsi paling kecil dalam tingkat regional. Dengan kerangka
kebijakan yang terbatas, ancaman mendatang dari menurunnya bantuan internasional, dan populasi
pengungsi yang kecil, ini adalah waktu tepat untuk menciptakan dan menjalankan kebijakan yang
mengizinkan kesempatan penghidupan yang sementara tapi berkesinambungan bagi komunitas
pengungsi Indonesia sementara mereka menunggu bertahun-tahun untuk dimukimkan kembali. Untuk
menciptakan kebijakan mengenai aktivitas penghidupan sementara, riset yang substantif dan berbasis
data diperlukan untuk mendasari rekomendasi mengenai pekerjaan potensial serta kesempatan
pendidikan dan wirausaha yang tepat bagi komunitas pengungsi tanpa mengganggu sistem pendidikan
dan ekonomi Indonesia. Melalui tinjauan literatur dan pengumpulan survei dari karakteristik tenaga
kerja dan pendidikan pengungsi, sebuah kerangka kerja akan kita usulkan. Kerangka yang diusulkan
akan memfokuskan tindakan yang bisa diambil para pengambil kebijakan di Indonesia untuk
mengembangkan kesempatan penghidupan sementara yang bisa didapatkan pengungsi demi kehidupan
yang independen dan manusiawi serta mendukung perkembangan ekonomi dan institusi Indonesia.

Laporan penelitian tersedia dalam Bahasa Indonesia dengan meng-klik tautan ini, or for English version please click here