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Getting Closure to Reality: Human Migration

Where We Are in Place and Time is our first unit of inquiry in school year 2018-2019. We are learning about human migration is a response to challenges, risks and opportunities. Our lines of inquiry are reasons for migration, history of migration and impacts of migration. To broaden our knowledge, we visited the former camp of Vietnamese Refugees in Galang Island and invited two resource speakers; they are Mrs Hasna Becher (a Tunisian, as a representative of Arab countries) and Mrs Lee Youngju (a Korean, as a representative of a migrant).

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We were blessed because we were accompanied by Mr Sumardi, the guide, who explained the history of Vietnamese refugees in Galang Island. In 1979, United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) built a port and barrack for the refugees. The area of this ex-camp is 80 hectares. There were 250,000 people living here from 1979 – 1996. In 1980, the refugees started to seek for asylum from US, Canada, Germany and some other countries. Until 1996, 500 refugees died and 5,000 people were sent back (repatriate) to Vietnam. No one was left to live in Indonesia. In March 24, 2005 some of the successful ex-refugees had reunion in their ex-camp.


The refugees came to Galang Island with their own beliefs. That is why we could see 5 worship places in the ex-camp location. In the museum we saw the artefacts left by the refugees. We were so enthusiast to see the interior of the jail but the guide did not allow us to see the interior of the second floor. During our visitation, the ex-camp was still under renovation. The authentic Vietnamese boats are being cemented because the woods are broken. We could also understand that refugees were taught English and other languages or vocational skills during their stay in Galang Island while waiting for re-settlement to other countries. Even now with the limited access to electricity in the ex-camp, it is hard to imagine the life of the refugees at that time. 

In the first session, Mrs. Becher explained about the conflicts happening in Syria which forced Syrians to save their lives and migrate to other countries. Some countries are open to welcome the refugees but some are not. Refugees who live in the camp really rely on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She told us that some refugees achieved success in the destination countries although there are plenty of them who are still trying to survive.

The aged refugees faced racism, young women and children encountered misbehaviour from the people of the host country.  She also shared experiences about the religious beliefs which made it hard for refugees to adjust with the new culture. Language, food, culture, weather, racism and government systems are some of the challenges faced by the refugees. The students were very curious on the topic and expressed them during the Question & Answer session.

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In the second session, Mrs Lee shared to us about the history of North and South Korea, the life of people in Korea and also about the agreement on the Unified Korea. Mrs Lee shared us a video and made the session more interesting and interactive. The session was greatly welcomed by the students with their good inquiry on the topic of North and South Korea.

Mrs Lee also shared us about her migration story to Batam, Indonesia. She explained the difficulties faced at first and then the ways how she adjusted with the new culture in Batam. She explained about the culture shock which dealt with the difference in culture in the two countries (Korea and Indonesia). She also explained the ways to adapt with the new culture by learning the native language, doing research in advance about destination country, challenging ourselves and making new friends.

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Both the field trip and the sessions with the resource speakers have helped strengthened our class to achieve our learning objectives for the current unit of inquiry. We would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to our guests and guide for all the support given to us.

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